BATON ROUGE – The Northwestern State baseball team did not do most of what it had done for the first 11 games of the season Tuesday night.
As such, the Demons felt something they haven’t felt much in 2020 – a loss.
Southern overcame a titanic, game-tying home run from Tyler Smith in the ninth inning, manufacturing the game-winning run in the 10th inning of an 8-7 victory at Lee-Hines Field.
“We did a lot of things we haven’t done for 11 games now,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “That’s very uncharacteristic of us, and it’s the reason we have won games. We haven’t beat ourselves. Today, we just played really, really poorly. We have to get back on the bus, get back to Natchitoches, break down why it happened and get ready for conference play in two days.”
Missed offensive opportunities and uncharacteristic wildness from the NSU pitchers kept the Demons (9-3) from equaling the program’s best start since 2010.
The Demons left 10 runners on base and struck out 14 times against four Southern (6-6) pitchers.
Meanwhile, the NSU pitching staff issued eight walks and hit four batters, giving away 12 free bases. Those giveaways loomed largest in the eighth and 10th innings.
In the eighth, right-hander Drake Smith walked the leadoff hitter and hit three others, bringing home a run to extend the Southern lead to 7-4.
Although the Demons rallied in the ninth, that extra run left the game tied instead of putting Northwestern State in position to win for the second time in as many road mid-week games.
Down to their last out, the Demons mustered their second three-run ninth inning of the season as Cole Horton was hit by a pitch as a leadoff pinch hitter. Two batters later, down to his team’s last out, Lenni Kunert singled off the glove of diving Southern third baseman Zavier Moore.
Smith followed Kunert’s single with a towering, game-tying three-run home run to right field off Dmitri Frank.
“Tyler’s been right on the ball,” Barbier said. “He’ll be fine. I hope the offense gets going again. We’ve got to put more pressure on them, especially early in the game.”
After Kyle Swanson (0-1) stranded the bases loaded in the ninth, he issued a one-out walk to Brad Jenkins, who stole second and third base and scored on a wild pitch as the Demons dropped an extra-inning game for the first time since the 2018 season at McNeese.
Smith’s home run briefly resuscitated a Demons offense that held a 4-1 lead after six innings on the strength of Jeffrey Elkins’ two-run home run in the fourth and sacrifice flies from Kunert and Peyton Davis.
The Jaguars erased that lead by taking advantage of a wild pitch on a strikeout with two outs in the sixth, following that miscue with a pair of two-run singles from Javonte Dorris and Moore to take a 6-4 lead after six innings.
Southern 8, Northwestern State 7, 10 innings
NSU 000 211 003 0 – 7 9 2
SU 000 015 010 1 – 8 8 2
W – Larry Barabino (2-0). L – Kyle Swanson (0-1). 2B – NSU, Tyler Smith. SU, Taj Porter. HR – NSU, Jeffrey Elkins (2), Tyler Smith (2). Highlights: NSU, Smith 2-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBIs; Marshall Skinner 2-5. SU, Zavier Moore 2-4, 2 RBIs; Porter 2-4, 2B, RBI.
Records: Northwestern State 9-3; Southern 6-6.