NATCHITOCHES – For the first time in his Northwestern State baseball career, Johnathan Harmon faced early-game adversity Sunday afternoon.
Just like his team, Harmon responded well.
Harmon, a freshman right-hander from Hornbeck, shook off a slow start and got plenty of offensive support as the Demons secured their first Southland Conference series win of the season with an 8-3 victory at Brown-Stroud Field.
“Johnny was kind of like our team today,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We got hit in the mouth (Saturday). They came out, and I think Johnny made good pitches, but they did a good job. Then he settled the game down. I think us hitting back in the bottom (of the first) helped out a lot.”
After the first three Wildcats reached with base hits, Harmon (3-0) allowed only one other hit – a fourth-inning leadoff infield single – to Abilene Christian (7-7, 1-2).
During that time, the Demons (11-4, 2-1) sprang to life offensively.
Northwestern State answered ACU’s three-run first with a three-run first and took the lead for good with a three-run third inning.
Peyton Davis had key roles in both three-run innings – an RBI double in the first and an RBI single in the third. Davis went 2-for-4, collecting his third straight multi-hit game. Davis finished the weekend 7-for-12 with four RBIs.
“I thought we swung the bats pretty well all weekend, even (Saturday) when we didn’t score much,” Barbier said. “I’ve said it before that Peyton has the power to change the score very quickly. It’s good to see him coming around, because he works at. You feel for him when he’s scuffling like he was earlier in the season. He was still popping a double every now and then, but it’s good to see him putting together consistent at-bats.”
Davis delivered one of Northwestern State’s three doubles, but the Demons used their speed to break the 3-all tie.
Daunte Stuart and Cam Sibley drew back-to-back walks off Nate Hawkins (1-2) to start the third and advanced when Seth Watts could not make an accurate throw on Lenni Kunert’s slow roller to third.
Marshall Skinner drove a Hawkins pitch to the warning track in center field, easily scoring Stuart from third. With Hayden Clearman’s momentum taking him away from the plate, Sibley tagged up and scored from second, giving Skinner a rare two-run sacrifice fly and putting the Demons ahead 5-3.
“That’s the first time I have scored from second on a sac fly,” Sibley said. “I was a little shocked at first. I put my head down and when I got to third, (assistant coach Taylor) Dugas slammed on the brakes. I thought it was too late to stop, so I put my head down and kept going.”
Davis followed with an RBI single to push the lead to three, which was more than enough for Harmon and relievers Drake Smith and Kyle Swanson, who finished the four-hitter with four scoreless innings of relief.
“It was good to see our offense respond,” Barbier said. “We had eight hits, but if the conditions were different, we’d probably have 12 or 13. They only had one hit after the first inning. We issued a few too many walks and gave away a few too many free bases, but Drake threw the ball well and Swanny (Kyle Swanson) pitched well at the end.”
The Demons return to action Tuesday night at Grambling, starting a four-game road trip that also includes a three-game series at New Orleans. First pitch Tuesday is set for 6 p.m. at Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Park at Wilbert Ellis Field.
Northwestern State 8, Abilene Christian 3
ACU 300 000 000 – 3 4 4
NSU 303 200 00x – 8 8 0
W – Johnathan Harmon (3-0). L – Nate Hawkins (1-2). 2B – ACU, Colton Eager. NSU, Daunte Stuart, Lenni Kunert, Peyton Davis. Highlights: NSU, Davis 2-4, 2B, 2 RBIs.
Records: Abilene Christian 7-7, 1-2; Northwestern State 11-4, 2-1.