Bottom of the order, bullpen propel Demons to series-opening win against ACU

NATCHITOCHES – For the first time in the 2020 season, Logan Hofmann did not pitch into the seventh inning of a Northwestern State baseball game Friday night.


Thanks to a potent bottom of the Northwestern State lineup, it did not matter.


The bottom three hitters in the Demons’ order combined for five hits and four RBIs as Northwestern State opened Southland Conference play with a 7-1 win against Abilene Christian at Brown-Stroud Field.


“We’ve become used to Logan being out there in the eighth when we go to get him,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “As teams get scouting reports and video on him, they’ll do things. They did a good job of ambushing the fastball early and made him go to something else.


“We know what Peyton (Davis) is capable. He can change the score quickly, which he did tonight. Larson (Fontenot) had a couple of good at-bats. It’s good to see some of those guys come along a little bit.”


In a matchup of starting pitchers who entered the game with a combined 38 innings of earned run-free pitching, the Demons (10-3, 1-0) struck early against Wildcats left-hander Austin Wagner (1-2).


Cam Sibley knocked a one-out, first-inning triple off the right-field wall before Lenni Kunert drove him in with a single off Wagner’s leg for a 1-0 lead.


As Abilene Christian (6-6, 0-1) continued to drive up Hofmann’s pitch count, the Demons countered with key hits.


Two pitches after Cameron Parikh reached on an error, Davis smoked his third home run of the season to left-center field to make it a 3-0 NSU lead.


“We went over the scouting report, and coach said he would throw a lot of fastballs,” Davis said. “Once he went 1-0 to me, I knew he would probably come with another one, so I wanted to get a barrel on it and start it early.”


Hofmann (4-0) had pitched at least seven innings in each of his first three starts but lasted five innings Friday because of a high pitch count.


The junior right-hander from Muenster, Saskatchewan, struck out nine and scattered five hits while not allowing an earned run in five innings, leaving with a 5-1 lead. He issued a career-high three walks but escaped trouble until a two-out error with the bases loaded in the fifth scored the Wildcats’ lone run.


“I didn’t think Logan had his best stuff, but he gave us a chance to win,” said Davis, who added a fourth-inning double ahead of Larson Fontenot’s two-run double.


“That’s all you can ask for. Seeing Cameron (Taylor) and Evan (Daigle) come out of the pen and pound the zone is awesome to see that we have that behind us.”


While the Demons added single runs in the fifth on Jeffery Elkins’ sacrifice fly and in the sixth on Sibley’s squeeze bunt, Taylor and Daigle combined for four shutout innings of relief, allowing only one hit as NSU improved to 4-0 on Friday nights.


“They did a good job to keep the score and the momentum on our side,” Barbier said. “I’ve seen this game before where you get up five or six runs, and the other team gets two or three in the eighth or ninth and they feel a lot better about the next day. We need to play well to win (Saturday).”


The series continues Saturday at 2 p.m. Left-hander Cal Carver (1-1, 1.35) makes his second start for Northwestern State while Abilene Christian counters with right-hander Austin Ruesch (1-1, 4.97).


Northwestern State 7, Abilene Christian 1

ACU       000 010 000 – 1 6 2

NSU       120 211 00x – 7 7 2

W – Logan Hofmann (4-0). L – Austin Wagner (1-2). 2B – ACU, Cameron Cromer, Mitchell Dickson, Hayden Clearman. NSU, Peyton Davis, Larson Fontenot. 3B – NSU, Cam Sibley. HR – NSU, Davis (3). Highlights: ACU, Clearman 2-3, 2B; NSU, Davis 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBIs.

Records: Abilene Christian 6-6, 0-1; Northwestern State 10-3, 1-0.