Northwestern State gets career offensive days, laudable pitching in softball DH sweep of Abilene Christian

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NATCHITOCHES – Career days by multiple Northwestern State hitters along with laudable pitching led to the Lady Demons’ sweep of Abilene Christian on Friday.

NSU (12-13, 4-1 Southland Conference) won the first contest 7-2 behind a career-high four RBIs from sophomore E.C. Delafield.

In the nightcap, senior Mikayla Brown twirled a three-hit shutout as NSU run-ruled ACU, 8-0, in five innings.

NSU will attempt a series sweep of ACU (7-14, 1-4 SLC) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. finale. The Lady Demons’ last series sweep came against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2018.

“We came out and scored runs early, and we made some adjustments and had some good approaches,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “We had production all up and down the lineup with hard shots from a lot of different players.

“Hopefully we can get it done (Saturday), and it’ll be big to score early.”

NSU 7, ACU 2

After NSU stranded three runners in the first two innings, the Lady Demons exploded for a four-run third inning before holding off multiple ACU rallies.

With runners at the corners, Delafield tripled to grab a 2-0 lead, her second of the season.

Freshman Riley Cantrell followed up with a two-run home run to increase the gap to 4-0, one of two homers on the day.

Starter Samantha Guile cruised through the first 2 2/3 innings without any trouble, including five strikeouts. But Guile walked the bases loaded with two outs, bringing in Bronte Rhoden with a 2-0 count on the batter.

Rhoden (5-3) battled back to get an inning-ending strikeout, and then she scattered seven hits and two runs to earn her team-leading fifth win.

“Sammie got into a little bit of trouble, but Rhoden came in and slammed the door shut,” Pickett said. “That was huge for us.”

NSU widened the gap to 5-0 when Nikki Skerlong scored on a wild pitch. Skerlong had her first multi-hit game of her career with the 2-for-3 performance and added an RBI single in the second game.

“After I had been struggling for a long time, it really felt amazing to get these hits and score some runs,” said Skerlong, who quadrupled her hit total with three hits Friday. “It makes my confidence build back up, too.

“Defensively, we did a great job, and we backed up our pitchers.”

ACU didn’t go away, scoring single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to stay within range of NSU at 5-2.

But Delafield slammed the door in the sixth inning with a two-run home run, her first career round-tripper.

“I was just picking my pitch before I got into the box, and I was just really zoned in. If that pitch was there, I was swinging Delafield said. “(The home run) was a pretty solid hit, and it felt good off the bat.

“It was really exciting, and all of the girls were just as excited for me. We have good momentum after struggling in (non-conference play), but we’ve turned it over, and we’re working hard.”

NSU 8, ACU 0 (5)

Eight different Lady Demons recorded at least one hit and seven different batters had an RBI as NSU’s offense supported Brown’s strong outing.

NSU scrapped across a run in the first and fourth innings despite stranding eight runners in that span.

Freshman Alexis Perry (two RBIs) recorded her first run driven in before junior Hayley Barbazon singled in a run in the fourth inning for a 2-0 lead.

But the Lady Demons dumped six runs in the fifth inning, capped by an Alexis Perry walk-off double to enact the run rule.

Cantrell started the fifth-inning scoring with a solo home run, her second of the day and third of the season.

“It’s always good to get up there and barrel up some balls, and it felt good to finally do that,” Cantrell said. “It’s great to have (associate head coach) Amanda Locke as our hitting coach, and she preaches that.

“It’s so much fun because you know the girl behind you has your back. Everyone loves each other on this team, and if we play like this, we’re going to win a lot of games.”

NSU strung together six other hits in the inning – an Elise Vincent single, a Maggie Black RBI double, a Skerlong RBI single, a Kaitlyn St. Clair RBI double, a Cayla Jones RBI single and Perry’s game-ending double.

The Lady Demons had 10 hits in each win.

That was more than enough for Brown, who recorded six strikeouts in her 43rd career win, which is two away from NSU’s top-5 all-time.

ACU placed two runners on base in two different innings with two outs, but Brown got out of those jams for her second shutout of the season.

“Brown set the tone in the first inning with three-up, three-down, and then we score in the bottom of the first,” Pickett said. “She kept spinning it, and not trying to do too much, attacking the zone.

“She mixed speeds well today. It’s easier to throw when you can get a lead, and it’s huge that we ended the game early when we had the chance.”

ACU starter Samantha Bradley battled early in the start, sidestepping trouble to keep the Wildcats within reach in the early innings.

But Bradley (2-10) couldn’t avoid base runners in the fifth inning during NSU’s six-run frame, and she finished with six runs (five earned) on five hits in 4 1/3 innings.

The Lady Demons stole six bases in the nightcap, including a pair by Barbazon, as NSU moved around the bases.

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