HOUSTON, Tx. (NSU) - A Northwestern State baseball team that has relied on pitching and defense throughout the 2019 season saw its strengths not show up Friday afternoon.
The Demons committed three errors and Houston Baptist got to NSU starter Ridge Heisler early, producing a 10-2 Huskies victory in the opener of a Southland Conference series at Husky Field.
“It was a tough game,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We’ve been flirting with that game for a while. They took advantage.
Their hitting numbers weren’t great going in, but they did a really nice job against Ridge and some mistakes he made.”
While the Huskies (7-18, 1-6) enjoyed one of their best offensive days of the season, the Demons (13-10, 5-5) found themselves unable to string much offense together against HBU starter Zach Carter.
Carter (2-4) tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just two singles, while striking out seven.
The Demons had their best chance to get to Carter in the first inning when Larson Fontenot reached on a two-base error to start the game and Caleb Ricca followed with a walk.
Carter recovered to strike out the next three Demons, stranding a pair of runners.
“We had them on the ropes in the first inning, and we didn’t capitalize,” Barbier said. “We let him settle in. When you face a good pitcher, you can’t let him settle in.”
After Heisler (2-3) needed just nine pitches to get through a perfect first inning, the Huskies began to chip away at the left-hander.
HBU tallied single, two-out runs in the second and third innings before a six-run fourth inning put the game out of reach.
The Huskies had five hits in the innings, but a pair of Demons errors led to a pair of unearned runs before Austin Reich came in and recorded the final out of the inning.
Reich was able to quiet the Huskies offense, working 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief. As Reich was steadying things, Carter continued to keep the Demons off balance.
“Austin came in and did great,” Barbier said. “We normally don’t pitch him in those circumstances, but I thought he could come in and settle the game down a little bit, which he did. It was good to see him throw the ball well.”
Following Hayden Brown’s one-out single in the fourth inning, Carter retired 11 of the final 12 Demons he faced, issuing only a leadoff walk to Tyler Smith in the fifth inning.
Following a two-run Huskies seventh, Ricca helped the Demons avoid their second shutout loss of the season, driving a 3-1 pitch from reliever Jacob Coats out to left field for his team-leading fifth home run of the season.
Ricca finished 2-for-3, collecting half of the Demons’ four hits. Brandon Bena (3-for-5), Ryne Edmondson (2-for-4), Johnny Gonzales (2-for-5) and Derek Reilly (2-for-4) notched multi-hit games for the Huskies.
The series continues Saturday at 1 p.m. Right-hander Jerry Maddox (1-1, 5.96) takes the mound for Northwestern State against HBU right-hander Brady Batten (0-3, 6.83).