BATON ROUGE – An early deficit at Alex Box Stadium wasn’t what Lane Burroughs hoped to see Wednesday night.
After two innings, that is where Burroughs and his Northwestern State baseball team found themselves, as No. 3 LSU’s four-run second inning erased NSU’s second early lead.
Despite the early hole, the Demons continued to battle the country’s second-best hitting team, battling back to bring the tying run to the plate twice in the ninth inning before falling to the Tigers, 9-6.
“I told our guys I’m not into moral victories,” the third-year Demons skipper said. “It’s not in my fiber, it’s not in my soul and it never will be, but for those guys who lived through last year (a 27-0 loss to LSU), to come back in here against what I think is a better club, to take them to the wire I’m proud of them.”
Northwestern State (17-15) trailed 7-3 entering the seventh inning, courtesy of the Tigers’ big second inning, which saw LSU (29-5) tie the game on a sacrifice fly to shortstop and a solo home run before adding two runs after it appeared the Demons had recorded the third out.
Evan Tidwell (2-3) appeared to get Alex Bregman to fly out to right field on a 2-2 pitch but was called for a balk, nullifying the result. Bregman put LSU ahead to stay on the next pitch, driving an RBI double to the left-center field gap.
Chris Chinea scored Bregman with an RBI single to cap the scoring.
NSU had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI groundout by Chase Daughdrill and a 3-1 lead in the second on catcher Garrett Logan’s first career home run, a two-run shot to left off LSU starter Jake Godfrey (6-0).
“Garrett’s college career has been a tale of back surgeries and shoulder surgeries, and for a Louisiana kid to hit a home run at Alex Box, I know it’s special to him,” Burroughs said. “He has been swinging the bat better. If we can take that offensive approach into our Southland weekends, we’ll be fine.”
After LSU tacked on two runs in the fourth inning to push the lead to 7-3, the Demons bullpen shut down the Tigers, allowing NSU to score twice in the sixth inning on a Caleb Dugas RBI groundout and a David Fry RBI fielder’s choice.
Single runs in the seventh and eighth innings allowed the Tigers to take a four-run lead into the ninth.
The Demons then put together one final rally, using LSU reliever Parker Bugg’s lack of control as the starting point. Bugg hit Nick Heath with a pitch to lead off the inning and walked Logan on four pitches. After Joel Atkinson flew out to right field, Fry hit a hard shot to third base that Danny Zardon could not handle, allowing Heath to score.
Bugg, however, settled down and retired the next two Demons to preserve the victory and hand NSU its fourth straight loss, a season long.
“We had a lot better offensive approach tonight,” Burroughs said. “I thought it was one of our best offensive approaches of the year. We stung some balls. I think I see something I’ve never seen every time I come here. (Chase) Daughdrill stings a ball that knocks their pitcher’s glove off, and they turn a double play. We made some errors and some bad mistakes, and if you don’t make those mistakes, you’ve got a chance to beat what I think is the best team in the country.”
The Demons return home Friday when they host New Orleans in the opener of a three-game Southland Conference series. The game currently is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch, but there is a chance weather could affect the weekend schedule.
— Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Sports Information