NATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU) The Northwestern State baseball team’s battery lived up to its name Sunday afternoon – in all three phases.
Nathan Jones handled the pitching, throwing seven strong innings, and catcher Jakob Nunez delivered his first home run as a Demon to start the scoring. Together, the two combined for a baseball rarity in the second inning of Northwestern State’s 8-1 Southland Conference victory against New Orleans at Brown-Stroud Field
“Nate’s been that way all year long,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “He’s worked his tail off to get to where he is in his pitching career. He pounded the strike zone with multiple pitches. We needed that after playing poorly (yesterday). You need a pitcher to come out and smother them. As an offense, Nunez has the big homer and gets us going.”
The win gave Northwestern State (10-7, 3-3) its first conference series win of the season after the teams split Friday’s and Saturday’s games.
Jones (2-1) scattered six hits in his seven innings of work, allowing only a sixth-inning run. Three of the hits came in the New Orleans (11-7, 2-4) second, but Jones and Nunez had an answer for each of the Privateers’ three singles in the frame.
Nunez started the oddity of an inning by picking off Gaige Howard at first base with Tresten Kennard at the plate. After Kennard bounced a seeing-eye single through the right side, Jones took care of him, snapping a quick pickoff throw at first.
Jorge Tejeda then drew a walk and took second on Antonio Gauthier’s single before Nunez caught his counterpart straying too far off second base and fired a strike to Caleb Ricca to nab Tejeda for the third out and complete the all-pickoff inning.
Perhaps buoyed by his strong throws, Nunez connected on a two-run home run off Christopher DeMayo (0-2) in the bottom of the second, part of a three-RBI day for the graduate transfer.
“It was a fastball up in the zone,” Nunez said. “I was looking for a fastball the whole AB. He tried to pitch me backwards and couldn’t throw it for a strike, so I was going to sit on one pitch, and I got it.”
Nunez’ home run proved to be enough for Jones, who settled in after the Privateers tagged him for four hits in the first two innings. Following Gauthier’s single, Jones did not allow another hit until Pearce Howard’s leadoff double in the sixth.
Jones worked a season-long seven innings and struck out a season-best nine batters, one shy of his career high.
“They’re really aggressive, and they’re really good hitters, especially those two lefties (Collin Morrill and Pearce Howard) at the top of the lineup,” Jones said. “I knew they’d be some tough outs. We played really good defense, and I trusted those guys, so I just tried to fill up the zone as much as possible.”
Jones threw 68 of his 108 pitches for strikes and kept UNO scoreless for 5 1-3 innings while the Demons steadily built him a six-run lead.
Hayden Brown posted a career-best 4-for-5 day at the plate, driving in three runs. Brown’s first career four-hit game led a productive bottom of the order in which the Nos. 6-9 spots went a combined 8-for-14 performance with seven RBis and three runs scored.
Jeffrey Elkins delivered his second straight three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three stolen bases.
“You can see what (hitting) coach (Taylor) Dugas has been preaching to them about using the whole field,” Barbier said. “The guys who are having success have used the whole field. Credit those guys for buying in, using the whole field. We got some good results today.”
The Demons return to action Tuesday night when they travel to UL Lafayette for a 6:30 p.m. mid-week game.
Northwestern State 8, New Orleans 1
New Orleans 000 001 000 – 1 7 1
Northwestern State 022 020 02x – 8 11 0
W – Nathan Jones (2-1). L – Christopher DeMayo (0-2). 2B – UNO, Pearce Howard; Gaige Howard. NSU, Jeffrey Elkins 2. HR – NSU, Jakob Nunez (1). Highlights: UNO, Gaige Howard 2-4, 2B, RBI. NSU, Elkins 3-4, 2 2Bs, RBI; Hayden Brown 4-5, 3 RBIs; Nunez HR, 3 RBIs; Larson Fontenot 2-3, RBI.
Records: New Orleans 11-7, 2-4; Northwestern State 10-7, 3-3.