Demons grind out second straight doubleheader sweep of Nicholls

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NATCHITOCHES – The results of the Northwestern State baseball team’s second doubleheader against Nicholls in as many days were the same.

The way they were achieved was anything but alike.

A day after breaking out the bats, the Demons smothered the visiting Colonels with strong pitching to record a second straight Southland Conference doubleheader sweep, edging Nicholls 3-2 and 2-1 on Sunday at Brown-Stroud Field.

“We’ve just got a bunch of grinders,” said junior right-hander Donovan Ohnoutka, who worked a career-long 7 1-3 innings of one-run ball in the nightcap.

Less than 24 hours after posting 20 runs in a Saturday doubleheader sweep, Northwestern State (21-17, 15-9) returned to its more familiar style of play – a one-run game.

With the twin one-run decisions, 13 of the Demons’ first 24 Southland Conference games have been decided by the narrowest of margins. NSU has emerged victorious in eight of those matchups.

The latest two were decided by timely hitting and powerful pitching.

In the opener, the Colonels (16-23, 11-13) struck with a first-inning run on a Kyle Boudreaux RBI single and added another without the benefit of a hit in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead.

Down two runs, the Demons struck back with their biggest swing of the doubleheader as Hilton Brown connected on his second home run of the weekend – a tying two-run shot off starter Devin Desandro.

Nicholls threatened immediately against Demon right-hander Levi David in the fifth, putting runners on first and second with one out before David struck out Dane Simon for the second out.

Left-hander Reed Michel (2-2) relieved David and induced a soft liner off the bat of Greg Anderberg to strand a pair of runners in scoring position.

The game remained tied until the seventh when Peyton Davis drew a one-out walk off Beau Balado (2-1) and Jake Haze and Larson Fontenot welcomed closer Joe Taylor with consecutive singles.

With the bases loaded, Daunte Stuart dropped a 1-1 pitch from Taylor into center field for a walk-off RBI single.

“I’d say I had the easiest job out of the three of them,” Stuart said. “They had to get the momentum going. I got up there with the bases loaded. I knew if I put something in play, my guys would score.”

The starting pitchers for both sides squelched any momentum from the opening game as Nicholls left-hander Josh Mancuso (0-1) and Ohnoutka turned in a scoreless pitchers duel through six and a half innings before the Demons broke through.

Much like Nicholls had done in the opener, the Demons broke the scoreless tie without the benefit of an RBI.

After Mancuso had ducked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, he was not so lucky in the seventh.

Austin Kirkpatrick drove Mancuso from the game with a one-out single – Kirkpatrick’s second hit of the game – and the Colonels turned to right-hander Cade Evans, who retired Jake Haze on a popout before losing control.

Evans walked Fontenot and Stuart to load the bases before uncorking a run-scoring wild pitch on an 0-1 count to Lenni Kunert. The next pitch glanced off Anderberg’s glove for a run-scoring passed ball that gave the Demons a two-run lead.

Ohnoutka and freshman right-handers Drayton Brown and Alex Makarewich made it stand up despite Caleb Hill’s solo home run in the eighth inning and a dicey ninth.

In the final inning, the Colonels put runners on the corners with one out before Makarewich induced a foul out and got a strikeout of Austin Trahan to end the game and secure the Demons’ first four-game Southland sweep of the season.

Ohnoutka (7 1-3 innings, career-high strikeouts), Brown and Makarewich combined on a three-hitter as the Demons scattered six hits in the doubleheader sweep.

“What an incredible weekend for our baseball team to overcome adversity and to win four games,” said assistant coach Chris Bertrand, who filled in for head coach Bobby Barbier, who missed the series with a non-COVID-related illness. “Not only did we win four games, but we won them in the manner in which we did. We learned so much about our club. Levi had such a grinding performance and the bullpen did the job.

“Donny, how incredible is that? Drayton Brown comes back, the first time we’ve asked him to do that this year. He does exactly what we need, and Makarewich slams it with some adversity. We showed some grit. We showed some resolve. We showed some offense. We showed some pitching. Think about what we can grab and take with us from this weekend.”

The Demons, who have won a season-high five straight games, return to action Friday when they travel to Central Arkansas for the opener of a four-game series. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Bear Stadium.

Northwestern State 3-2, Nicholls 2-1
Game 1
NICH 100 100 0 – 2 3 0
NSU 000 200 1 – 3 6 2
W – Reed Michel (2-2). L – Beau Balado (2-1). 2B – NSU, Peyton Davis. HR – NSU, Hilton Brown (2). Highlights: NICH, Kyle Boudreaux 2-3, RBI.

Game 2
NICH 000 000 010 – 1 3 0
NSU 000 000 20x – 2 5 0
W – Donovan Ohnoutka (2-0). L – Josh Mancuso (0-1). S – Alex Makarewich (2). HR – NICH, Caleb Hill (1). Highlights: NSU, Cam Sibley 2-4. Austin Kirkpatrick 2-4.
Records: Nicholls 16-23, 11-13; Northwestern State 21-17, 15-9.

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