Northwestern State posts second straight shutout, sweeps Abilene Christian in series
Northwestern State pitcher Samantha Guile recorded her first career shutout as a Lady Demon, and the bats supplied their most explosive performance of the series as NSU swept Abilene Christian with a 9-0 win in five innings.
Guile (3-6) allowed a career-low two hits in the shutout, which was NSU’s second of the series after run-ruling ACU 8-0 behind the arm of Mikayla Brown.
“It says a lot about Sammie after she didn’t have her best stuff (Friday), but she didn’t throw a lot of pitches and we really thought the matchup was in her favor,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “She got a lot of pop ups and quick innings.
“Guile attacked the zone, and our defense made plays behind her.”
Guile, who started the first game Friday and lasted 2 2/3 innings after walking the bases loaded, didn’t allow a walk Saturday.
ACU’s only threatening inning came with consecutive two out singles in the second inning, but Guile induced a pop up to strand two runners in scoring position.
“I felt good, and the team brought a lot of energy this weekend, really since conference play started,” Guile said. “I have a really great pitching coach (Brooke Boening), and she worked through the issues I was having (Friday).
“I knew I had a great defense behind me, and if I threw strikes, I knew they would take care of it along with a great offense to back me up.”
NSU supplied most of its offense in the third inning, striking for six of its nine runs.
After Hayley Barbazon smacked her first home run of the season to lead off the inning (2-0 NSU), the Lady Demons loaded the bases with a Kaitlyn St. Clair bunt single, an ACU error and an Alexis Perry single.
St. Clair (2-for-2, 2 runs scored) scored on reliever Jillian Hefner’s wild pitch before E.C. Delafield (2-for-3, 2 RBIs, 2 runs scored) continued her hot streak with an RBI single for a 4-0 lead.
A deep Riley Cantrell sacrifice fly scored pinch runner Kayla Roquemore before a two-run home run from Codi Vernace pushed NSU’s advantage to 7-0.
Vernace’s home run was her first of the season as she capped a 2-for-3 day with two RBIs.
“I made a base running error earlier in the game, and I was a little down, but my teammates had my back the whole time,” Vernace said. “I was getting outside pitches, but I finally got one inside, and I just let my hands go.
“(This offensive production) is something we’ve been waiting for, and it gives us a lot of energy heading into next weekend (at McNeese).”
NSU chased ACU starter Calie Burris (4-3) early in the third inning before tagging reliever Jillian Hefner with six runs (two earned) in just 1/3 of an inning.
The Lady Demons started the scoring when Delafield (2-for-3, 2 runs scored, 2 RBIs) hit her second home run in as many days in the second inning. Those were the sophomore’s first two career home runs.
Up 7-0, NSU tacked on two fourth-inning runs on a Cantrell two-RBI single. The hit scored St. Clair (single) and Cayla Jones (reached on one of three ACU errors).
Cantrell (2-for-2, three RBIs) produced her second multi-RBI game of the series and seventh of the season.
Barbazon continues to produce in the leadoff role, finishing 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
“Hitting is contagious, and it’s getting up and down the lineup, and that’s creating a lot of trust and confidence,” Pickett said. “We’re getting consistent now, and we’re settling in.
“We’re not putting too much pressure on one or two kids. That’s huge for our lineup, and it says a lot about our depth.”
The sweep is NSU’s first since handling Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at home on March 23-24 of this past season.
NSU’s 5-1 start to Southland Conference play matches its 2018 early-season success, and the Lady Demons will aim to continue that success when they host Louisiana Tech on Wednesday before heading to McNeese in the next SLC series.
The Lady Demons haven’t had consecutive shutouts since blanking Murray State in the finale two games of the series in 2016. NSU hasn’t posted two straight shutouts against an SLC opponent since it didn’t allow Nicholls to score a run in a three-game series in 2015.