Hofmann’s gem, Skinner’s homer lift Demons to season-opening shutout of Wichita State

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NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State junior right-handed pitcher Logan Hofmann arrived with plenty of fanfare.

In his Demons baseball debut Friday night, Hofmann met all expectations.

Hofmann spun seven shutout innings and got all the support he needed from his catcher Marshall Skinner as the Demons blanked visiting Wichita State, 11-0, in the season opener at Brown-Stroud Field.

“We got the runs in the end, but Logan, when you’ve got that going on it can demoralize a team,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “He was tremendous tonight, and it was good to see us break through in the end.”

Hofmann (1-0) needed to be sharp to keep pace with Wichita State right-hander Jake Hamilton (0-1) in a matchup of two of the top strikeout artists in junior college baseball a season ago.

Hamilton led the NJCAA in strikeouts and Hofmann finished third in 2019, and the Shocker right-hander showed why, striking out 13 in five-plus no-hit innings.

Effectively wild, Hamilton danced around back-to-back walks to start the game and issued five walks and hit a batter. Hamilton faced one batter in the sixth inning, issuing a leadoff walk to Lenni Kunert that put in motion the first of consecutive big innings for the Demons (1-0).

Kunert’s walk signaled the end of Hamilton’s night and of the Demons’ offensive woes.

Tyler Smith welcomed reliever Aaron Haase with a single before Skinner rocketed a full-count pitch out to right-center field for a three-run home run.

“We did a good job taking our time and drawing walks,” said Skinner, who finished 2-for-5 with a career-high three RBIs. “Hofmann really kept us in the game. Whenever I hit the home run for him, especially in my last season opener, it meant a lot. I’ve started working middle away, and I’m glad it’s working out.”

Skinner’s blast was the big hit in a five-run sixth inning, but it was the Demons’ patience that allowed them to extend the lead.

Northwestern State worked 12 walks off six Wichita State pitchers, including a pair of bases-loaded walks in the sixth inning and another in the seventh.

Wichita State (0-1) pitchers also uncorked a pair of run-scoring wild pitches.

Skinner’s swing was enough for Hofmann, who allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out eight in seven shutout innings.

Working on a pitch count, Hofmann needed just 80 pitches to cover his seven innings.

He allowed one runner to reach scoring position when Alex Jackson doubled to lead off the seventh inning. A junior right-hander from Muenster, Saskatchewan, Hofmann settled back in with a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to strand Jackson at third.

“You’ve got to have the mind-set to go out there and attack guys and not worry about what our guys are doing with the bats,” Hofmann said. “It came around toward the end. I felt loose in the bullpen. Throughout the game, it got a little chilly, but I felt good overall.

“It was a big, clutch hit by Marshall that really got us going. It was awesome.”

Josh Banes tossed a pair of scoreless innings for Northwestern State (1-0), which picked up its second opening-night shutout in the past five years.

“It was great to keep his pitch count down so he could finish that last inning,” Barbier said of Hofmann. “That was big as far as saving our bullpen. He was great tonight. He had four pitches going for strikes. He has a really special arm.”

Skinner (2-for-5) and Smith (2-4, double) delivered multi-hit games for Northwestern State, which opened the season with a win for the third time in the past five seasons.

The series continues Saturday with a 2 p.m. first pitch. Left-hander Reed Michel (2-2, 4.41 in 2018) is scheduled to pitch for Northwestern State against Wichita State right-hander Liam Eddy (5-8, 5.04)

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