NATCHITOCHES -- Tuesday night’s matchup with Mississippi Valley State went exactly as planned for the Northwestern State baseball team.
The Demons maintained the offensive momentum they built in Sunday’s comeback win at Houston Baptist and saw four pitchers combine on a three-hit shutout of the visiting Delta Devils in an 11-0 win at Brown-Stroud Field.
“I thought Robert Burke, Donovan Ohnoutka and Cameron Taylor, in his first time out, all threw the ball really well,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “They competed in the strike zone with good stuff. It was good to see that. It was good to see some guys who had been struggling offensively get going with J.P. (Lagreco) and Tyler (Smith) each getting homers. Those guys get going, it changes our offense.”
The Demons (15-11) notched double-figure hits in back-to-back games for the first time this year and continued the trend of scoring with two outs that began in Sunday’s four-run ninth inning. All five of Northwestern State’s first-inning runs off Jordan Sawyer (0-1) came with two outs, beginning with Smith’s three-run home run.
Hilton Brown and Marshall Skinner delivered RBI singles in the frame as the Demons extended their streak of scoring two-out runs to nine.
The first-inning surge came after starter Tyler Pigott (4-1) wiggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by inducing an around-the-horn double play to end the inning.
Once Pigott got Marshall Parrish to bounce into the inning-ending double play, the Demons’ pitching staff rolled.
Mississippi Valley State (6-13) recorded a pair of hits against Pigott in the first inning but did not tally another until Billy Leflore’s leadoff infield hit in the seventh. The Demons relief corps of Burke, Ohnoutka and Taylor allowed only the one hit in seven scoreless innings as Northwestern State blanked the Delta Devils for the fourth straight time.
While Burke and Ohnoutka had tasted success before Tuesday night, Taylor’s two scoreless innings were special. The left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in his true freshman season of 2017 and appeared in two games as a redshirt freshman, going 1-for-2 at the plate.
In his collegiate debut as a pitcher, Taylor allowed one walk in two scoreless innings, closing out Northwestern State’s third shutout of the season.
“Being on the mound’s a little different than being at the plate,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s eyes are on you. When we circled up, I thought, ‘Geez, it’s been a long time since I’ve been up here and able to do this.’”
Taylor said the nerves did not truly kick in until the ninth inning.
“In the eight, it was easier (to follow Burke and Ohnoutka),” Taylor said. “In the ninth, it was like, ‘OK, now I have to keep the shutout.’”
Smith was one of five Demons hitters to record a two-hit game and led the way with four RBIs, adding a second-inning RBI double to his first-inning home run.
Lagreco (2-for-4) capped the scoring with a solo home run in the seventh, his second of the year. Sam Taylor (2-for-4, RBI), Caleb Ricca (2-for-4) and Brown (2-for-4, RBI) also recorded multi-hit games for the Demons, who have tallied 13 hits in consecutive games.
The two-game, mid-week series concludes at noon Wednesday with senior right-hander Jerry Maddox (1-1, 8.67) taking the mound for the Demons.