Holmes’ walk-off lifts Demons to 10-inning win, sweep of Islanders

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NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State baseball team tried to solve Texas A&M-Corpus Christi left-hander Jaime Ramirez Jr. for 101 pitches Sunday afternoon.

It took Bryce Holmes five to figure out Islander right-hander Leo Perez.

Holmes drilled a fastball over the right-center field wall to lead off the 10th inning for a walk-off home run, lifting the Demons to a 1-0 Southland Conference win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to complete a three-game sweep.

“The coaches were yelling, ‘No heroes. No heroes. Just pass the torch,’” Holmes said. “That’s what I was doing. I was looking for a fastball. I got it and took advantage.”

Holmes’ second home run of the year came after the Demons (15-12, 5-1) were handcuffed by Ramirez for nine innings in a Sunday pitchers’ duel between the Islander left-hander and Demon righties Drayton Brown and Gus Collins (1-0).

When Ramirez gave way, Holmes delivered.

Perez (2-3) got a first-pitch called strike before missing with three straight pitches, putting Holmes in an advantage count. With one swing, the first-year Demon capped the Demons’ first conference sweep of the season and NSU’s 12th win in its past 15 games.

“It was good to see us continue to fight and win a game a different way,” said sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier, whose team had scored 42 runs in its first five conference games. “We could have been satisfied in that dugout, but our two pitchers were able to keep us in the game.

“Bryce is proven. He’s a proven Southland Conference player who has had a good career. He had a great fall and early spring and scuffled a little bit. I’m so happy for him to have some success. We had a tough time against the left-hander, which we knew we could, but it was good to see the right-hander and for Bryce to get him one.”

While Ramirez scatted four hits in nine shutout innings, the Demon pair of Brown and Collins did the same against the Islanders, keeping Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (15-15, 2-4) off the board with some help from their defense.

Beginning with an around-the-horn double play with one out in the first inning, the Demon defense made three run-saving plays with two outs in innings to keep the game scoreless.

Larson Fontenot’s headlong dive and snag of Brandon Petkoff’s fifth-inning liner stranded a man at second before Sibley capped the sixth inning with a remarkable play.

From a prone position, Sibley was able to handle a tricky hop and throw out Nate White to help Brown finish a first-and-third, one-out jam.

Brown worked six shutout innings before turning the ball over to Collins, who allowed only one walk in four shutout innings, striking out four to earn his first win as a Demon.

“The two pitchers who threw for us today were fantastic,” Barbier said. “We made some game-changing defensive plays with men on base. Sib made one in the six hole that’s as good as you’ll see, and Larson made one coming in on a dive. Whenever we play defense the way we played today, that game-changing defense, it gives the pitchers confidence to stick it in there and gives us energy in the dugout.”

Collins provided a boost of his own, retiring eight of the last nine he faced, including a 1-2-3 10th inning, punctuated by a strikeout of Josh Caraway, setting the stage for Holmes’ biggest hit as a Demon.

“Drayton did a really good job today, getting us back in the dugout,” Collins said. “It was a good team win between the defense and the pitching. Being able to come in and step up in that situation was great to do for the guys.”

The Demons return to action Wednesday at Lamar in the first of a season-long eight-game road trip. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont, Texas.

Northwestern State 1, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 0, 10 innings
AMCC 000 000 000 0 – 0 4 0
NSU 000 000 000 1 – 1 5 2
W – Gus Collins (1-0). L – Leo Perez (2-3). 2B – AMCC, Steven Rivera-Chijin, Nate White. NSU, Jake Haze. HR – NSU, Bryce Holmes (2).
Records: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 15-15, 2-4; Northwestern State 15-12, 5-1.

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