Demons battle back to split doubleheader with Lamar

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NATCHITOCHES – The longer four-game Southland Conference series linger, the stronger it seems the Northwestern State baseball team becomes.

Sparked by a career game from senior Lenni Kunert, the Demons split a second consecutive Southland Conference doubleheader with Lamar, grabbing an 8-1 second-game win after falling 3-2 in the opener at Brown-Stroud Field.

“We did a good job responding,” fifth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We fought hard (in the opener), but a couple of things didn’t go our way. Then we get the big homer from Lenni and had good pressure early. We kept the strikeouts down.”

The Demons (15-15, 9-7) learned from two bases-loaded situations that went against them in the first game to deliver in the nightcap.

A line-drive double play scuttled a one-out, bases-loaded situation for Northwestern State in the opener, but Kunert, a sixth-year senior, made sure it would not happen again in the second game.

Leading 3-1 in the fifth inning of the second game, Kunert followed Marcus Olivarez’ run-scoring wild pitch by launching a three-run home run to left one pitch later to extend the Demons’ lead to 7-1.

“Barbier tells us it isn’t always going to go right, but you have to be ready to be successful in that moment,” said Kunert, who tied a career high with four RBIs. “That’s what I was looking forward to and what the guys were looking forward to today. We had good at-bats up and down the lineup.”

Northwestern State also got a pair of standout pitching performances in the second game as Donovan Ohnoutka worked a career-long 4 2-3 innings in his second career start before Reed Michel (1-2) finished the game with 4 1-3 shutout innings of relief.

Ohnoutka gave up a first-inning run before settling in and limiting the Cardinals (15-11, 7-9) to four hits across his 4 2-3 innings.

“It’s a new thing for me, but I’m getting more comfortable,” said Ohnoutka, who made his second career start. “I’m getting my pitch count up. I just have to let my teammates work, and it’s been going really well.”

In his two starts, Ohnoutka has allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings.

The Demons answered Lamar’s opening run with one in the home half of the first, a run built on Kunert’s legs.

After reaching on a fielder’s choice, Kunert took off for second on a ball in the dirt and moved to third on a throwing error on the play by Cardinals catcher Anthony Quirion. Kunert then scored on the second wild pitch of the at-bat thrown by Lamar left-hander Dylan Johnson (1-2).

Kunert was part of a two-out rally in the third that gave NSU the lead for good.

After Johnson retired the first two Demons, he hit Larson Fontenot with a pitch, and Fontenot stole second before scoring on Daunte Stuart’s tie-breaking double. Kunert followed with an RBI single to extend the lead.

Fontenot was hit by a pitch three times in the second game Sunday, part of a four-game series in which the junior outfielder was plunked seven times.

One of those came in the second inning of Sunday’s opener.

Lamar starter Josh Ekness (1-1) hit Cam Sibley in the knee and then hit Fontenot in the helmet to put the first two runners on. After a sacrifice bunt by Peyton Davis, Jake Haze walked before Ekness escaped the jam by getting Stuart to line into an inning-ending double play, keeping the score 2-0.

Faced with the same situation in the fourth inning, NSU right-hander Levi David (2-3) was not as fortunate.

Kelby Weyler’s chopper glanced off David’s glove for a game-tying single before Chase Kemp flipped a go-ahead single to right field on the first pitch he saw from reliever Alex Makarewich.

“If things had gone differently that first game,” Barbier said. “We line out with the bases loaded for a double play, and they hit a ball that tips off our glove or it would have been a double-play ball.”
Ekness and reliever Jack Dallas combined on a two-hitter in the first game before the Demons responded for their third series-finale victory in four tries in conference play.

Kunert’s sixth three-hit game of his career was part of a 4-for-7 day at the plate while his four RBIs doubled his season total coming into play Sunday.

The Demons return to action Friday when they travel to Houston Baptist for a four-game Southland series. First pitch in the opener is set for 2 p.m. in Houston.

Lamar 3-1, Northwestern State 2-8

Game 1
LU 001 200 0 – 3 6 0
NSU 200 000 0 – 2 2 2
W – Josh Ekness (1-1). L – Levi David (2-3). S – Jack Dallas (7). 2B – LU, Reese Durand. HR – NSU, Jeffrey Elkins (4). Highlights: LU, Durand 2-4, 2B. NSU, Elkins HR, 2 RBIs.

Game 2
LU 100 000 000 – 1 6 1
NSU 102 040 00x – 8 6 1
W – Reed Michel (1-2). L – Dylan Johnson (1-2). 2B – LU, Anthony Quirion. NSU, Daunte Stuart. HR – NSU, Lenni Kunert (1). Highlights: LU, Avery George 2-4, Deric LaMontagne 2-4. NSU, Kunert 3-4, HR, 4 RBIs.
Records: Lamar 15-11, 7-9; Northwestern State 15-15, 9-7.

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