NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State took advantage of Sam Houston State mistakes and free passes Saturday as the Lady Demons completed the sweep with an 8-0, five-inning win.
NSU (15-7, 3-0 Southland Conference) capitalized on three errors and seven walks as the Lady Demons compiled a pair of four-run innings to deliver the knockout blow to the defending SLC champion Bearkats (9-15, 0-3 SLC).
The Lady Demons continued their home dominance at Lady Demon Diamond in league play after posting an 11-1 home record in 2019. NSU is now 14-1 in its last five home SLC series with four sweeps.
“We left a couple of base runners on early, but these girls kept playing no matter what, and that was a big thing for us this weekend,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett, who was honored Friday for crossing the 300-win plateau (now at 312). “We fell behind the first two games, and today it would have been easy to get down after not driving in runners early.
“But we got big two-out hits, and we scored all of our runs with two outs. Sweeps are hard to come by because this league is so competitive top to bottom, so I’m proud of these girls for making it happen when they had the opportunity.”
After stranding three runners in the first innings, NSU started to string together hits to go along with its walks.
Leadoff hitters Elise Vincent and Cayla Jones started the third inning by walking for the second straight at-bat.
Delafield came up with two outs, scratching the scoreboard with an RBI single before Kaitlyn St. Clair placed a double on the left-field line for a 2-0 edge.
Delafield (2-for-3, three RBIs, two runs scored) scored on a passed ball for a 3-0 lead before SHSU’s first error plated the fourth run.
SHSU starter Regan Dunn (3-4) exited the game before the first error, finishing with four runs allowed (two earned) on three hits and six walks in 2 2-3 innings.
Reliever Karina Sanchez also allowed four runs in the fourth inning, but every run was unearned.
NSU made trouble with an Elise Vincent single and a Cayla Jones walk (three walks), but Sanchez recorded two outs with two runners in scoring position.
Delafield laced a two-RBI double to right field followed by another error as NSU led 7-0. Keely DuBois singled in St. Clair (two runs scored) to put the run-rule in effect at 8-0. Not only did all eight of NSU’s run come with two outs, six of seven hits occurred with two outs as well.
NSU starter Jensen Howell made that run-rule stand up in the fifth inning, retiring SHSU in order in four of the five innings she pitched to post her first shutout as a Lady Demon.
Howell (8-3) retired the first 10 batters she faced Saturday before SHSU threatened in the fourth inning.
Sheridan Fisher and Tiffany Thompson singled before Dunn reached on an error to load the bases.
Howell faced Hunter Ervin, who homered Friday, with the bases loaded, but she induced a ground out to end the Bearkats’ only threat.
The junior transfer earned her sixth win in seven outings, allowing three hits and striking out four.
“I guess I was in my groove, and I wasn’t sore from throwing (Friday), which hardly ever happens,” Howell said. “I knew it was going to be a great day.
“I just stayed within myself, not let the moment get too big. I just went right at them and let everything work itself out. We came in today knowing what we wanted to do (win the series), but we wanted the sweep, and we grabbed it and held on.”
The Lady Demons won their second straight series against SHSU after picking up two of three in Huntsville, Texas, this past season – the only series the Bearkats lost.
NSU stays at the Lady Demon Diamond this coming weekend when Lamar visits. The Lady Demons are welcoming back all former players as part of Reunion Weekend when former NSU assistant coach Amy Hooks and former NSU shortstop Tara McKenney bring their Cardinals to town.
CUTLINE: NSU pitcher Jensen Howell completes her first shutout as a Lady Demon Saturday in an 8-0 win in five innings.
CREDIT: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services