by Jason Pugh, Assistant AD for Media Relations
Momentum rested squarely in the Northwestern State baseball dugout through the first five innings Saturday afternoon.
Once visiting Abilene Christian wrested it away, the Wildcats did not give it back.
ACU used a four-run sixth inning to spark a late-game outburst, pulling away for an 8-2 Southland Conference win against the homestanding Demons at Brown-Stroud Field.
“We just have to play better,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “That’s what the message was. We have to play better. Guys out of the bullpen coming have to command the strike zone with a couple of different pitches. We didn’t do that today.”
The Demons (10-4, 1-1) jumped to an early lead for the second straight game, tallying single runs in the first and second innings.
However, Abliene Christian starter Spencer Chirpich (1-1) limited the damage and kept it a 2-0 game through the fifth inning.
In the sixth, the Wildcats (7-6, 1-1) broke through, taking advantage of a Demon error and some good fortune.
Three batters after an error on a potential double-play ball, pinch hitter Miller Ladusau tied the game with a bases-loaded, two-run double off Josh Banes (0-1).
With runners on second and third, Seth Watts followed with a tie-breaking single that blooped over the mound for an infield hit.
Abilene Christian added an RBI groundout by Hayden Clearman to take a 4-2 lead after the sixth, and the Demons could not rally.
Northwestern State had its best late-game chance in the seventh inning when Cam Sibley drew a leadoff walk and Lenni Kunert followed with a single through the left side.
However, Wildcats reliever Tanner Riley sandwiched a pair of fielder’s choices around a strikeout to escape further damage.
“I thought we swung the bats well early,” Barbier said. “We had a few opportunities to score some runs. We had a few loud outs, and late in the game, we had some poor at-bats with men on base. That’s how you score. You have good at-bats with men on base. You don’t need a ton of them, but you have good at-bats when they’re out there. We just have to regroup and play better (Sunday).”
Peyton Davis (3-for-4) and Kunert (2-for-5) combined for five of the Demons’ eight hits off three Wildcats pitchers.
Colton Eager (2-for-4, three-run home run) and Watts (2-for-5) had multi-hit games for Abilene Christian, which won for the first time in eight visits to Brown-Stroud Field since rejoining the Southland Conference in 2014.
The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. Right-hander Johnathan Harmon (2-0, 1.35) is set to pitch for the Demons against left-hander Nate Hawkins (1-1, 1.29) of Abilene Christian.
Abilene Christian 8, Northwestern State 2
ACU 000 004 130 – 8 11 1
NSU 110 000 000 – 2 8 2
W – Spencer Chirpich (1-1). L – Josh Banes (0-1). 2B – ACU, Mitchell Dickson, Miller Ladusau. HR – ACU, Colton Eager (1). Highlights: ACU, Eager 2-4, HR, 3 RBIs; Dickson 2-4, 2B; Seth Watts 2-5, RBI. NSU, Lenni Kunert 2-5; Peyton Davis 3-4.
Records: Abilene Christian 7-6, 1-1; Northwestern State 10-4, 1-1.