By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
CONWAY, Arkansas — Former Airline star Peyton Davis hit two runs in Northwestern State’s 8-4 victory over Central Arkansas in the first half of a Friday Southland Conference doubleheader.
Central Arkansas won the second game 3-1.
NSU is 22-18 overall and 16-10 in the conference. Central Arkansas is 16-22 and 10-16.
Davis’ first home run put Northwestern State up 2-0 in the second inning and the second – a three-run blast – erased a two-run lead for the Bears and sparked a five-run fourth for the Demons.
“I felt like I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well, and I finally got some pitches over the plate I could hammer,” said Davis, who enjoyed the first multi-homer game of his career and set a career high with five RBIs. “I got the barrel out and finally got into a couple.”
The Demons needed each of Davis’ big swings because Central Arkansas stayed after starter Johnathan Harmon (4-2), who scattered eight hits in four innings to earn the win.
“Peyton had a great game and we needed it,” NSU coach Bobby Barbie said. “As soon as we got behind, he came up and gave us a big spark. Then we were able to extend the lead, which was big for us.”
Otherwise, Friday was a day for the bullpens.
The Demon bullpen was strongest in Game 1 while the homestanding Bears returned the favor in Game 2.
“We had our chances in the second game,” Barbier said. “We left them on all game long besides when (Tyler Cleveland) came in. We didn’t play great in the second game, but we competed hard. We had a couple of balls we hit hard with runners on that didn’t find grass, and they get one that does. It’s the way the game goes, especially when you’re playing doubleheaders on the road, but I really liked the way we competed all game long.”
Freshman right-hander Drayton Brown backed up Harmon in Game 1 with three scoreless innings to earn his third save. Brown entered the game with runners on first and second in the fifth inning and survived a 12-pitch at-bat against Kolby Johnson to escape the jam unscathed.
Brown allowed one hit in his three innings, striking out three.
“Whenever I come in, it’s usually in a tight situation,” Brown said. “I was trying to keep it close for Johnny. Getting that first out (against Johnson) was really big and got me through the rest of the game.”
The Demons added a single run in the sixth inning on an infield single by Larson Fontenot, who had four hits in the doubleheader.
In Game 2, the Demons had their chances early against starter Tate Busey, tagging the Bear right-hander for five hits in three-plus innings.
However, NSU hit into some tough luck, leaving 10 runners on base in the first five innings, including Fontenot three times in the first five innings despite the Demon leadoff man tying a school record with four stolen bases in that time frame.
The Demons loaded the bases off Busey in the fourth inning with no outs and scratched out a single run on Jake Haze’s sacrifice fly off reliever Conner Williams (1-1).
Williams allowed the inherited run to score but stranded the bases loaded in the fifth, setting up the pivotal Bears rally.
A throwing error allowed Connor Flagg to reach base with one out and he moved to second on an errant pickoff throw by Cal Carver (5-4). After Coby Potvin (5-for-7 in the doubleheader) walked, AJ Mendolia’s flare to right field scored the go-ahead run.
Potvin added a straight steal of home to give Central Arkansas a 3-1 lead on three unearned runs against Carver, who allowed just four hits in an eight-inning complete game, striking out seven.
Those two runs were more than enough cushion for Cleveland, who struck out eight and allowed only one hit in four scoreless innings to earn his seventh save of the season.
“He’s pretty special,” Barbier said of Cleveland, who has struck out 26 in his past 16 innings. “We’ve got to do more of what we did today and know they’re going to fall if we keep doing it. We left them out there a little too much today, but if we compete (Saturday) the way we competed today, we’ll have a chance to win.”
The series concludes with a 3 p.m. Saturday doubleheader. Northwestern State plans to start right-handers Levi David (2-4, 3.59) and Donovan Ohnoutka (2-0, 1.29) while Central Arkansas will counter with Mark Moyer (2-5, 4.31) and a to-be-announced starter.