By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
LAKE CHARLES – The Northwestern State baseball team came up with one key ninth-inning hit Thursday night in its Southland Conference Tournament championship bracket matchup with New Orleans.
The problem for the Demons – they needed at least one more.
The Privateers survived Broch Holmes’ pinch-hit solo home run to lead off the ninth inning, stranding the game-tying run at third base to escape with a 4-3 victory at Joe Miller Ballpark and drop the Demons into the elimination bracket.
“I’m proud of the way we competed,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “That was a good ballgame. If that ball is two more inches to the left at the end, it’s 4-4. That’s the way baseball goes sometimes.”
Northwestern State (28-26) will face tournament host and No. 6 seed McNeese at 2:30 p.m. Friday. A win there would move the Demons into the tournament semifinals.
A day after stranding the tying run in scoring position in a first-round win against No. 2 seed UIW, the fifth-seeded Demons ended up in the same spot in part because of struggles with runners on base. NSU was 3-for-16 with runners on and had just one hit with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-12.
That one hit was Bo Willis’ game-tying RBI single in the second inning, part of a two-run frame that gave the Demons an early lead.
From there, Privateer starter Tyler LeBlanc danced in and out of trouble, including stranding the bases loaded in the fifth inning thanks to a disputed hit by pitch call.
With the bases full and two outs, LeBlanc’s first pitch to Jake Haze appeared to hit the Demon shortstop on the foot but went uncalled. A video review did not overturn the call and LeBlanc struck out Haze, who had doubled and scored in the two-run second, to strand the bases loaded.
An inning later, the fourth-seeded Privateers (35-22) took the lead for good, building a two-out rally against Alex Makarewich (5-5). After Makarewich retired the first two batters, Jorge Tejeda singled and Issac Williams walked before Kasten Furr’s single deflected off a diving Haze’s glove to snap the tie.
Anthony Herron Jr.’s RBI double in the seventh gave the Privateers an ultimately important insurance run.
Holmes delivered the biggest swing off reliever Caleb Seroski (4-1), connecting on a pinch-hit home run to lead off the Demon ninth. It was NSU’s first pinch homer since Cameron Parikh hit one May 20, 2022, in an SLC Tournament elimination game against UIW at Joe Miller Ballpark.
It also was the Demons’ school-record 59th home run of the season – one of two team records the Demons established Thursday night. The other came when freshman reliever Tyler Bryan struck out Southland Conference Hitter of the Year Tristan Moore to start the seventh inning.
The strikeout was the Demons’ 460th as a staff, surpassing the record of 459 set in 2010.
After Holmes’ home run, Jacob Farrell chased Seroski with a double to left field before advancing to third base on Gabe Colaianni’s fly ball to right field. Nolan Daniel closed the game by getting Michael Dattalo to ground to De La Cruz at third.
“We have a man on second base with nobody out, and we didn’t get him over,” Barbier said. “If we do, Gabe’s ball, which was hit on the screws, gets him in. Our game is so hard and is made up of so many small things you do, you’ve got to look at those things, but you also have to look at the full body of work.”
The Demons will send right-hander Drayton Brown (5-6, 6.10) to the mound in Friday’s elimination game.
— Featured photo by Leighton Chamblee, McNeese State Athletics