NSU falls victim to late SLU rally in regular season finale

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HAMMOND – The Northwestern State baseball team held its Southland Conference Tournament destiny and position in its hands Saturday afternoon.

After shaking off a slumbering start to the game, the Demons wrested away the lead late before Southeastern strung together four ninth-inning hits to grab its second walk-off win of the weekend, a 7-6 victory at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.

“It was a tough weekend,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We gave up two leads in the ninth inning. We’ve got to play a little better. (Kyle) Fro(ehlich)’s battling it out, pitching for the second time in three days, which is something we haven’t asked him to do much. They got four hits in the ninth. We’ve just got to shake it off and get ready for the tournament.”

The loss dropped the Demons (27-25, 12-12) to the No. 5 seed in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament. Had NSU won Saturday’s game, it would have landed the No. 3 seed. Instead, the Demons will face No. 2 seed Incarnate Word at 11 a.m. Wednesday at McNeese’s Joe Miller Ballpark. SLU did not qualify for the SLC tourney.

UIW’s 5-1 win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday clinched the No. 5 seed for the Demons

Down 4-0 through five innings against SLU right-hander Brennan Stuprich, the Demons dented the scoreboard on the first of Jake Haze’s two RBI singles.

That started a run of three straight scoring innings for the Demons, who put up four runs in the eighth inning to take their first lead of the game. Northwestern State jumped relievers Trey Herrington and Jackson Rodriguez for four runs and four hits in the inning with Reese Lipoma’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly capping the frame.

Haze and Gray Rowlett had RBI singles in the inning while pinch-hitter Broch Holmes drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game.

The Lions (25-25, 9-14) nearly tied the game in the eighth, but third baseman Michael Dattalo snared Tyler Finke’s hard line drive off Kyle Froehlich (4-3) to strand a runner at second base.

The Demons were not as fortunate in the ninth inning as Jake Killingsworth’s leadoff double on an 0-2 pitch scooted just inside the third-base bag. After a Connor Manola fly out to right, Shea Thomas tied the game with a single to right before TJ Salvaggio, whose two-run double highlighted a three-run fourth inning, singled to left for the win.

“Fro’s our guy,” Barbier said. “He’s done it all year long. We have to play better earlier in the game. We didn’t play well early. We pitched just OK. We made a few mistakes. This time of the year, it’s about playing better. It’s not about yelling and screaming. It’s not about practicing better. It’s about being ready to play when the time comes.”

Dattalo had hits in his final three at-bats to finish 3-for-5 and move into sixth place on the Demons’ single-season hit list with 81, seven shy of tying the school record. Haze (3-for-4, 2 RBIs), Lipoma (2-for-3, RBI) and Rowlett (2-for-2, RBI) paced the Demons’ 11-hit attack, which was just four shy of the 15 hits NSU posted in the first two games of the series.

Southeastern 7, Northwestern State 6
NSU 000 001 140 – 6 11 1
SLU 010 301 002 – 7 10 0
W – Reid Reynolds (2-0). L – Kyle Froehlich (4-3). 2B – SLU, Jake Killingsworth, Connor Manola, TJ Salvaggio, McGwire Turner. Highlights: NSU, Michael Dattalo 3-5; Jake Haze 3-4, 2 RBIs; Gray Rowlett 2-2, RBI; Reese Lipoma 2-3, RBI. SLU, Killingsworth 2-4, 2B; Champ Artigues 2-3; Shea Thomas 2-5, 2 RBIs; Salvaggio 2-5, 2B, 3 RBIs.
Records: Northwestern State 27-25, 12-12; Southeastern 25-25, 9-14

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