Saturday, May 18, 2024

College baseball: Three former parish prep stars help NSU defeat SLU

by Russell Hedges
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By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations; featured photo of Hayden Knotts by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

NATCHITOCHES – Three former Bossier Parish high school stars helped Northwestern State defeat Southeastern Louisiana 11-8 in the final game of their Southland Conference-opening series Sunday at Brown-Stroud Field.

Former Parkway star Hayden Knotts, a redshirt sophomore, went 3-for-5 for the first three-hit game in his career.

Former Haughton star Colin Rains, a freshman, had an RBI-double that gave the Demons the 11-8 lead in the bottom of the eighth.

Another former Haughton star, freshman pitcher Austin Anderson, pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save.

The Demons, who lost the first two games of the series, improved to 6-18 overall and 1-2 in the SLC. Southeastern dropped to 17-7 and 2-1. 

“As someone who really loves his baseball team – and really loves this place and really loves these fans – I’m happy for people,” first-year head coach Chris Bertrand said. “Our ballclub really, really needed it. Our fans really needed it. The people who loves us really needed it. Our ballclub was grinding. They were fighting. They never say die. For all the circumstances surrounding the weekend, I’m just so happy for our people. They really needed that.”

The Demons (6-18, 1-2) got what they needed thanks to a team-wide effort that came up with key moments in every phase of the game.

The trio of Reese Lipoma (4-for-5), Rocco Gump (3-for-5) and Knotts combined for 10 of the Demons’ 16 hits while first baseman Daniel Burroway connected on his second go-ahead home run in as many days.

Burroway’s home run highlighted a five-run third inning against Southeastern right-hander Will Kinzeler (1-1) and came less than 24 hours after his two-run home run in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game snapped a 3-all tie.

“I knew he was fastball, change-up, and I was looking for something up in the zone,” said Burroway, who has homered three times in his past five games. “I’ve been pushing things out of the zone recently. I saw the ball up, put a good swing on it and hit it through the wind.”

Burroway’s blast gave freshman right-hander Dylan Marionneaux (1-4) a three-run lead that evaporated in the fourth before Knotts began another run-scoring rally in the bottom of the inning.

Batting ninth, Knotts singled in the third, fourth and fifth innings and scored in each of those frames. After Kinzeler held NSU scoreless in the first two innings, the Demons scored at least one run in their final six at-bats.

“We work all year for something, and you don’t just abandon it when times get tough,” said Lipoma, who joined Bo Willis as Demons with four-hit games this season. “You stick with the approach. The coaches work with us. We put in the work. We bust our tails. Keep working and something will fall our way. We showed that today.”

NSU’s offensive explosion came in the same series in which the Demons did not score in the first 11 innings against Southeastern.

Even with an offense that never went down in order producing its second-most hits in a game this season, Northwestern State had to slow a Southeastern offense that made the most of its nine hits.

Marionneaux saved one of his best innings for his last, working a 1-2-3 fifth before the Demons’ offense continued to pressure SLU relievers Aiden Vosburg and Dalton Aspholm.

After Alejandro Marquez escaped the seventh inning with a one-run lead, he tossed a scoreless eighth before Anderson worked a scoreless ninth.

“Friday, in the team meeting, there was a message,” Bertrand said. “Saturday, in the team meeting, there was a message. Today, our message was we were really going to see who was mentally tough. I wasn’t questioning them, but we were going to see who was mentally tough in the way we respond and how we’re not going to let the things that have happened and how yesterday ended, define us. The tough people are able to come out and not play not to lose but play to win. Today’s challenge was how mentally tough can we be and get this turned around.”

The Demons return to action Tuesday night when they host Louisiana Christian at 6 p.m.

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