ABILENE, Tx. (NSU) - The Northwestern State baseball team had its chances early and often Friday night in its Southland Conference opener at Abilene Christian.
The Demons were unable to capitalize, however, on those early offensive opportunities, and the homestanding Wildcats took advantage as a pair of right-handed pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 Abilene Christian victory at Crutcher Scott Field.
“You’ve got to have better at-bats in those spots when you get men out there,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We had decent at-bats, and (ACU starter Spencer Chirpich) hit us a couple of times to get them out there. The game comes down a lot of times, when you’re not swinging the bat as well, to a couple of spots. We let the pitcher dictate the at-bats. He did a good job all night long. We’ve got to a better job offensively.”
Chirpich (2-1) worked out of trouble in each of the first two innings, stranding five runners.
After a Tyler Smith single and back-to-back hit batters in the first, Chirpich induced a short fly ball and a groundout to escape early damage.
In the second, the Demons (6-5, 0-1) had runners on second and third before a strikeout short-circuited that rally.
While Chirpich danced out of trouble, Demons starter Ridge Heisler (1-1) was strong throughout before some soft contactHe led to pair of runs in the Abilene Christian (8-6, 1-0) third.
Lane Bourland’s flare double to shallow right field awakened the Wildcats, who used a hard-chopped RBI single by Luis Trevino and an RBI groundout by Derek Scott to take a 2-0 lead.
Heisler settled back in after the third and strung together four scoreless innings before leaving after a leadoff walk in the eight inning. Heisler turned in his second straight quality start, working seven plus innings, scattering six hits and allowing three runs (all earned). He struck out five and walked two, throwing a season-high 104 pitches.
“They get the two runs on dinks and dunks, and that happens sometimes,” Barbier said. “He pitched great. He kept us right there in the game. He did a really good job.”
The Demons put together one final rally against Chirpich in the fifth, loading the bases on a pair of walks and an infield single by J.P. Lagreco. However, Chirpich recorded an inning-ending strikeout on his 100th and final pitch of the game.
After Chirpich escaped the fifth-inning jam, Hunter Spaeth issued a leadoff walk to Lenni Kunert in the sixth before he faced the minimum 12 batters to record his first save of the season.
“Our offense is better than it showed,” Barbier said. “It will come around.”
Bourland led Abilene Christian with a 3-for-3 performance, adding an RBI sacrifice fly in ACU’s two-run eighth inning. Trevino went 2-for-4 for the Wildcats while the Demons managed four singles from four different players.
The series continues Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee. Right-hander Jerry Maddox (0-0, 4.30) is scheduled to start for Northwestern State against Abilene Christian left-hander Derek Scott (0-0, 7.36).
Abilene Christian 4, Northwestern State 0
NSU 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
ACU 002 000 02x – 4 8 2
W – Spencer Chirpich (1-0). L – Ridge Heisler (1-1). S – Hunter Spaeth (1). 2B – ACU, Lane Bourland. Highlights: ACU, Bourland 3-3, 2B, RBI; Luis Trevino 2-4.
Records: Northwestern State 6-5, 0-1; Abilene Christian 8-6, 1-0.