NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State shrugged off two early deficits Friday to knock off defending Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State in a sweep to start softball league play.
Junior E.C. Delafield delivered at the plate and in a circle in a 6-5 win in the second game at Lady Demon Diamond.
Delafield walked off the Bearkats (9-14, 0-2 SLC) with a double to right field after she tossed three relief innings with just one unearned run.
That sent the Lady Demons out of the dugout and streaming across the field to congratulate Delafield, who went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
“I was really confident in our lineup, and as long as somebody got on in front of me, I was going to do my job to drive them in or move them over,” Delafield said. “I’m accepting my role as a pitcher, and I’ll be ready in whatever role I’m needed.
“I’ll have my pitchers’ backs, and my goal is to go in and shut it down.”
In the first game, the Lady Demons erased a two-run SHSU lead to run away with a 5-2 win.
NSU (14-7, 2-0 SLC) secures its second straight series win against Sam Houston State to start league play, and the Lady Demons will aim for the sweep Saturday in the 1 p.m. finale. NSU was the only team to beat the Bearkats in a series this past season as SHSU won the regular season and league tournament titles.
NSU 6, SHSU 5
Fans will remember Delafield’s late-game heroics, but to get in that position, the Lady Demons needed to dig out of a four-run hole.
SHSU struck for a first-inning run on a Regan Dunn RBI-walk before piling on three runs in the fourth inning. The hole could have been much deeper, but Hayley Barbazon laid out in a full sprint
Sophomore Bronte Rhoden recorded one out as the starter before reliever Samantha Guile entered and pitched 2 2-3 innings effectively.
But Guile ran into the trouble in the fourth inning, walking the leadoff Madilyn Weatherly and allowing a Dunn single before Hunter Ervin hit a three-run home run for the 4-0 edge.
Rhoden re-entered and recorded three more outs before giving way to Delafield.
NSU responded to that deficit with a five-run fourth inning after not mustering a hit against SHSU’s starter Dunn.
An error, a Kat Marshall single and a Delafield walk loaded the bases before pinch runner Casey Irvin scored on a Dunn wild pitch.
With the bases reloaded, freshman Keely DuBois produced the biggest hit of her young career when she laced a single to score two runs and slice SHSU’s lead to 4-3.
“I was just going up there – see ball, hit ball,” DuBois said. “I’ve kind of struggled this season at the beginning, and it hasn’t been how I hoped it would go.
“I give all my glory to God for that, because that’s exactly what I wanted. Anything like that can turn your season around as long as it’s positive and going toward the team.”
With two outs, Cayla Jones tied the game with an RBI-walk, one of seven free passes issued by SHSU.
Sophomore Alexis Perry put NSU ahead with an RBI single to score DuBois.
Three of those five runs were unearned thanks to the leadoff error.
Perry, who delivered go-ahead runs in both games, started the seventh-inning attack with a one-out double.
She scored the game-winning run two batters later on Delafield’s double off Annie Bailey (1-3), who allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits.
“We’ve been talking about winning every inning, and we didn’t win the first inning in either game,” said Perry, who also made crucial defensive plays as a catcher late in the game. “But we knew we could get the hits back, and we were just focused on coming back.
“It was awesome to get these two wins, and we’re excited to come out here (Saturday). The last time they were here, they won it all on our field (SLC Tournament), and that wasn’t easy to watch. We came out here with a chip on our shoulder.”
Delafield cruised through her first two innings of relief, but the Bearkats made trouble with an error and a Megan McDonald single to start the seventh inning.
Tiffany Thompson tied the game on a towering sacrifice fly, but Delafield prevented further harm with two more outs. The junior finished with one unearned run on one hit and a walk.
NSU 5, SHSU 2
The Lady Demons used SHSU’s lack of control and one crucial error to dig itself out of a two-run hole in the first game.
Down 2-0, NSU loaded the bases in the second inning with singles by Jensen Howell and Kaitlyn St. Clair and an Emma Hawthorne walk.
SHSU shortstop Tiffany Thompson rushed to get the speedy Elise Vincent at first base, but her throw missed the mark and allowed three runs to score as NSU took its first lead.
Cayla Jones singled up the middle to push NSU’s edge to 4-2 in that second inning as the Lady Demons scored nine of its combined 11 runs in two innings in the doubleheader.
Perry doubled in an additional run, plating Hayley Barbazon, who scored twice.
That offense was more than enough for starter Jensen Howell (7-3), who stranded eight Bearkats by working around seven hits. Howell allowed two runs (one earned) while striking out eight.