Hard contact hurt the Northwestern State baseball team in its season opener.
In game two of the 2019 season, it was much softer contact that led to another walk-off victory for homestanding Houston. Kyle Lovelace’s two-out single up the middle in the ninth inning gave the Cougars a 5-4 Saturday night win at Darryl and Lori Schroeder Park.
“We played really good,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “Jerry Maddox was fantastic, like he has been since he’s been here. The guys who came in behind him, I thought (Tyler Pigott) did a good job, and (David) Hodo had some bad luck. They got four hits off him in two innings but only one of them was hit on the screws.”
Three of those hits came in the ninth, starting with a leadoff pinch-hit single from Craig Yoho. Hodo (0-1) then retired the next two hitters before the most pivotal play in the ninth inning.
Hodo induced a slow chopper toward second base and Yoho screened second baseman Luke Watson, who was unable to make the play, putting runners on the corners with two outs.
The Demons (0-2) lobbied for an interference call against Yoho but were denied. Two pitches later, Lovelace singled up the middle to give the Cougars (2-0) their second straight walk-off win in the series.
All nine runs in the game were scored after the fifth inning.
Maddox and Houston starter Ryan Randel matched up in an early-season duel, each putting up five scoreless innings before the offenses awoke in the sixth.
The Demons struck first, loading the bases with no outs and scoring their first run on Marshall Skinner’s first career RBI. Two batters later, Peyton Davis singled home a pair of runs to give the Demons a 3-0 lead.
Maddox held the Cougars hitless for the first 4 2-3 innings before a Kobe Hyland single. After Skinner threw out Hyland trying to steal to end the fifth, Maddox retired the first two batters in the sixth.
Lovelace then singled and Tyler Bielamowicz followed with a two-run home run to pull the Cougars within one.
An inning later, Houston added another pair of runs to take its first lead of the game before the Demons proved their mettle.
With runners on second and third and one out, Davis drilled a 1-2 pitch from Devon Roedahl (2-0) into the right-center field gap that appeared to be a go-ahead double. Grayson Padgett’s sliding catch allowed Larson Fontenot to score from third with the tying run but denied the Demons a late lead.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Barbier said. “The guy made a great play in right field on the ball Peyton Davis hit. Peyton’s having a great weekend. It’s a matter of getting that first (win). When we do the rest will come.”
Davis (2-for-3) tied a career high with three RBIs, doing it for the fourth time, while shortstop Caleb Ricca went 3-for-4 with a double for the Demons.
“If you look at our at-bats this year versus our at-bats this time last year, it’s night and day,” Barbier said. “They are absolutely night and day. We struck out five times today. We’re moving the ball and having more competitive at-bats. That will get you playing really good baseball at the end of the year.
“How can you lay it out on the line and still bring it the next day when you don’t get the results you’re looking for? We’re built for that. Hopefully, we have a team that’s built for not being result-oriented and can look at how well we’re playing.”
The series concludes with a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee. Senior right-hander Nathan Jones (4-6, 3.84) takes the mound for the Demons against Houston left-hander Lael Lockhart Jr. (1-2, 6.64).