Demons outlast McNeese, forge five-way tie for SLC lead

Donovan Ohnoutka picked up his first save since March 20, 2021, Saturday night against McNeese
Donovan Ohnoutka picked up his first save since March 20, 2021, Saturday night against McNeese(Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services)
Published: May. 7, 2022 at 11:35 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KALB) -The Northwestern State baseball team travels 30 players for each Southland Conference series.

Throughout the course of the conference season, it usually takes all 30 at some point to make a contribution to a key victory.

Consider the Demons’ 5-4, 10-inning win at McNeese on Saturday night evidence of that point.

“It was a really good ball game,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “Two teams really fighting hard. Getting down the back end of the season, you can tell teams start fighting harder for things. I thought they fought hard. We did, too. Johnny (Harmon) has been tremendous all year and gave us another great start. Then we had some big outings out of the bullpen.

“Cameron Taylor comes in and gets two really huge punchouts. Then Coss (Andrew Cossio) picks him up and gets us through the bottom of the ninth and Donny (Ohnoutka) there at the end. It was just a really hard-fought game. It was indicative of what we have been coming through the stretch the last few games.”

The Demons’ second 10-inning win of the season pulled Northwestern State into a five-way tie for the Southland lead with four games to play. Joining NSU (23-23, 11-9) atop the league are McNeese (26-21, 11-9), Southeastern, Nicholls and Houston Baptist.

Northwestern State held one-run leads on four separate leads Saturday night with a different Demon hitter delivering the go-ahead RBI each time.

Gray Rowlett’s sacrifice fly drove in Daunte Stuart, who led off the game with a double, in the first inning.

After Brad Burckel’s two-run home run in the first gave the Cowboys their first lead of the weekend, Gabe Colaianni answered with a two-run home run in the Demon third, allowing Harmon to settle in.

Harmon survived a 30-pitch first inning to pitch into the seventh, scattering eight hits and striking out five without allowing a run. After Harmon exited in the seventh inning with runners on the corners and one out in a tie game, Taylor came in and continued his McNeese mastery.

A sixth-year senior left-hander, Taylor struck out two Cowboy hitters, including Burckel with the bases loaded and two outs to preserve the tie game.

The Cowboys tied the game on a run-scoring wild pitch in the eighth before the Demons outlasted McNeese closer Cameron Foster, who leads the conference with 11 saves.

Foster (3-2) entered with a man on and one out in the eighth and kept the Demons hitless until Jeffrey Elkins extended his career-long hit streak to 12 games with a one-out single in the 10th inning. Jacob Farrell, who entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner, bounced an infield single off the glove of third baseman Josh Leslie to put runners on first and second.

Larson Fontenot then delivered the go-ahead sacrifice fly after a wild pitch moved Elkins and Farrell up a base.

“This whole year, I’ve known I’m going to come in the late innings in close games,” Farrell said. “I just try to stay loose. I knew he was going to challenge me with a fastball. I was ready to hit, put a good swing on it and, thankfully, got on base.”

Cossio (2-0) had cruised through the eighth and ninth innings, striking out three without allowing a hit, but left after throwing his warmup pitches for the 10th inning.

Enter Ohnoutka, who has served in virtually every conceivable role in his NSU career.

The right-hander walked Burckel to lead off the inning and saw Burckel swipe second base. A one-out walk put the winning run on first base before Ohnoutka responded with a strikeout of pinch hitter Peyton Johnson and a fly ball to left from Reid Bourque to pick up his first save since March 20, 2021, at Sam Houston.

“You have as much time to get warm when somebody goes down, so that gives you confidence to know there’s no pressure,” Ohnoutka said. “You go out there, take a deep breath, and you’re fine.”

In his past three appearances, Ohnoutka has strung together five scoreless innings, including a three-inning scoreless effort Tuesday against Louisiana Tech.

“It takes them all,” Barbier said. “It really does. We have a 30-man conference roster. The game will do that to you. Donovan Ohnoutka has been working really hard since he hurt his arm a couple of weeks ago. He’s been long-tossing, waiting his turn. He had a good outing against Louisiana Tech and had a good one tonight.”

The series concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday. Right-hander Drayton Brown (5-4, 3.38) takes the mound for Northwestern State against a to-be-determined starter for McNeese.

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