Darr’s near perfection caps perfect weekend at Mardi Gras Mambo for Lady Demons
YOUNGSVILLE – One big inning and one massive pitching performance was more than enough for Northwestern State on Sunday afternoon to take down Toledo 6-0 and finish a perfect Mardi Gras Mambo weekend.
The Lady Demons (6-3) scored five runs in the second inning to take a commanding early lead for starting pitcher Maggie Darr who retired the first 16 batters she faced on her way to a one-hit shutout and her second win of the weekend.
“I thought maybe she didn’t have her best stuff as the game started but she grinded through it the first couple innings and was able to settle in,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “She got stronger as the game went and I was glad to see her do that and us make plays behind her. After she got the feel and got going she was a little more dominant as the game went on.”
Darr was able to work all quadrants of the zone from start of the game, hitting the inside corner with regularity and painting the black on the outside to keep the Toledo (2-7) batters guessing all afternoon.
She struck out at least one batter in six of her seven innings and had two strikeouts in three different innings, several thanks to the elite defensive performance behind the plate from Ashlyn Walker on pitches low in the zone.
“Changing speeds was the biggest thing today for me,” Darr said. “Was able to work down in the zone as well made them chip away at things and kind of throw their bats out there so keeping it low really helped us. Ash had some big moments all day keeping balls blocked they were chasing was huge too.”
The Demon offense provided all the support it technically needed for Darr’s dominant outing in the bottom of the first inning.
Laney Roos started the frame with a single to left then advanced to third with some aggressive baserunning on a sacrifice bunt from Makenzie Chaffin, one of two perfectly placed bunts of the game for the left fielder. Keely Dubois completed the run manufacturing inning with a sacrifice fly to left that scored Roos and put NSU up 1-0.
“Those are the kinds of at-bats that we’ve got to have, those quality at-bats,” Pickett said. “Whether it’s bunting, hitting behind the runner or even a sacrifice fly with less than two outs. Having those at-bats in the situational hitting scenarios sets the table for other people in the lineup to get things done.”
Darr struck out a pair in the second after a nine-pitch at bat to start the inning that ended in a ground ball to short and get the offense back to work.
NSU loaded the bases with the help of a hit batter and walk around a Tristin Court base hit that set the stage for the crooked number production.
A Bailie Ragsdale base hit up the middle brought in the first run and flipped the lineup back to the top for Roos. She worked a walk after falling behind 0-2 to reload the bases with still only one out in the inning.
After a walk pitch allowed Nani Winger to score, who also walked in the inning, Chaffin laced a ball through the right side to bring in two more runs making it a 6-0 game after two innings.
“It’s big to go up early,” Darr said. “It gets the momentum going and as a pitcher it lets you take a deep breath a little bit knowing your team has your back like that.”
Darr followed the outburst with another two-strikeout inning and was officially on no-hitter and perfect game watch with nine straight retired one time through the order.
The Rockets went to the bullpen in the third after two walks started the inning and Toledo’s Sophia Knight got the next three batters in a row, and after escaping any more damage in the next half inning, retired seven of the final eight batters she faced in the game.
Darr cruised through the fourth and fifth innings and got the first batter of the sixth on a liner to short that Dubois was able to extend and grab to preserve the perfection and the no-hitter.
Both would fall away on a base hit to right by the Rockets’ Lauren Erickson serving as the only hit of the game for Toledo and one of only two baserunners, the second coming on a missed third strike in the seventh inning that was quickly erased on a 4-6-3 double play.
“I wasn’t thinking about a perfect game or no-hitter at all really until it dropped and I kind of sat there and said ok,” Darr said. “I was looking to keep the off the bases, low traffic, no runs and let my team do what they do on the hitting side.”
NSU shut out three of its five opponents in a 5-0 weekend in Youngsville.
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