Baseball — Demons can’t slow UCA offense in doubleheader sweep

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CONWAY, Arkansas – The Northwestern State baseball team pushed back late in the second game of Saturday’s Southland Conference doubleheader at Central Arkansas.

However, an early five-run deficit proved too much to overcome as the Demons fell 13-8, in the nightcap as the host Bears completed a doubleheader sweep and handed NSU its first series loss of the conference season.

Central Arkansas opened the day with a 9-2 win in the first game.

“We competed hard,” fifth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “After a long day, to come up and cut the lead down to one, we just got kicked right back in the teeth. We didn’t compete in the strike zone today for whatever reason. We couldn’t get anyone to stop it. It lingered on an on, and when you have a day like that, you need someone to come in and stop it, and we didn’t have that.”

After a six-run sixth inning in the opener gave the Bears (17-22, 12-16) the series lead, the Demons (22-20, 16-12) fell behind early in the second game when Central Arkansas scored a run on a two-out, bases-loaded hit by pitch.

That set off the Bears offense, which scored in every inning except the second against four Demons pitchers.

Northwestern State tied the game at 1 in the third inning as Tyler Smith welcomed reliever Brad Verel (1-1) with a sacrifice fly to deep right field. Verel escaped further damage from the bases-loaded, one-out scenario he inherited to keep the game tied.

From there, the Bears mixed in timely hitting with patience and eight hit batters – three of which came with the bases loaded – to cap their series victory.

Two-run innings in the third and fourth off NSU right-hander Donovan Ohnoutka (2-1) jump-started Central Arkansas and helped the Bears build a 6-1 lead through five innings.

That’s when the Demons awoke.

Northwestern State began to solve right-hander Cole Halpin, who had shut out the Demons in the fourth and fifth innings.

NSU put together a two-run sixth to cut the lead to three before Tyler Cleveland, who tossed four shutout innings of relief in Game 2 of Friday night’s doubleheader, got Larson Fontenot on a hard flyout to center field to strand the bases loaded.

UCA answered with two in its half of the sixth, setting up a scenario that continued for the next two innings.

The Demons tattooed Cleveland in the seventh, scoring four times on six hits, including an RBI fielder’s choice from Peyton Davis and RBI singles from Kendall Foster, Jake Haze and Austin Kirkpatrick to pull within one before second baseman Hunter Hicks robbed Fontenot of a potential game-tying hit with a basket catch in shallow center field.

“I thought we had good at-bats with men on base today,” Barbier said. “Tyler (Smith) scalded a ball that could have been a double and went for a sac fly. Larson scalded a ball. We had good at-bats. We got 14 hits and eight runs. That could have been a lot more if some of those balls find grass for us earlier.”

UCA answered the Demons’ push with four two-out runs in its half of the seven on a two-out, two-strike RBI single by pinch hitter Beau Orlando and Connor Emmet’s three-run home run, his second home run of the game.

Daunte Stuart capped NSU’s scoring with a solo home run to right-center field, his seventh of the season and his first on the road.

In the opener, the Demons put runners on base early against Mark Moyer (3-5) but failed to score, opening the door for the Bears, who scored three unearned runs off Levi David (2-5) in the fourth inning without the benefit of a hit.

David struck out eight in 5 2-3 innings but issued six walks and allowed seven runs (four earned).

The big inning in the opener came in the sixth after Smith cut the lead to 3-2 on his 22nd career home run, which produced his 100th career RBI.

David retired the first two hitters but hit Kolby Johnson with a pitch and issued three straight walks, forcing home a run, before giving way to Drake Smith.

Smith walked a pair of batters with the bases loaded before Coby Potvin welcomed Evan Daigle with a bases-loaded triple that landed on the right-field line.

“We hit some adversity here,” Barbier said. “It’s the first time we’ve lost a series in a while. We’ve been pretty consistent. Now we’ve got to go back to work and get ready for next weekend.”

The Demons return home Friday to open a four-game Southland series against McNeese. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Brown-Stroud Field.

Central Arkansas 9-13, Northwestern State 2-8
Game 1
NSU 000 011 000 – 2 9 1
UCA 000 306 00x – 9 3 0
W – Mark Moyer (3-5). L – Levi David (2-5). 2B – NSU, Peyton Davis. 3B – UCA, Coby Potvin. HR – NSU, Marshall Skinner (4), Tyler Smith (2). Highlights: NSU, Skinner 2-5, HR, RBI; Smith 2-3, HR, RBI; Kendall Foster 2-4.

Game 2
NSU 001 002 410 – 8 14 1
UCA 102 212 41x – 13 13 0
W – Brad Verel (1-1). L – Donovan Ohnoutka (2-1). S – Tyler Navarro (1). 2B – NSU, Daunte Stuart, Peyton Davis. UCA, Coby Potvin. HR – NSU, Stuart (7). UCA, Connor Emmet 2 (6). Highlights: NSU, Stuart 2-4, 2B, HR, RBI; Marshall Skinner 2-4; Cam Sibley 2-5; Jake Haze 2-4, 2 RBIs; Austin Kirkpatrick 2-4, 2 RBIs. UCA, Emmett 3-5, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs; Potvin 2-4, 2B, RBI; Taylor Daniell 3-5, 2 RBIs.
Records: Northwestern State 22-20, 16-12; Central Arkansas 17-22, 12-16.

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