Photos by Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services
The Northwestern State baseball team didn’t need a ninth-inning rally to defeat Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night.
Right-handers Jerry Maddox and David Hodo – and some generosity from the Bulldogs – made sure of that.
Maddox tossed 5 2-3 shutout innings, Sam Taylor broke a scoreless tie with a nifty third-inning slide and Hodo closed out Northwestern State’s 3-1 victory at Brown-Stroud Field, completing a two-game season sweep of the Bulldogs.
“Proud of Jerry,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “It hasn’t worked out for Jerry this season for whatever reason. It’s like we talk about – it doesn’t mean it won’t work out the rest of the way. He’s still a huge part of this team. For him to come out against a good club that was ranked in the Top 25 last week, and give his team everything he had, it was tremendous.”
After Maddox (4-3) and Louisiana Tech starter Logan Robbins (3-3) traded two scoreless innings each, the Demons broke through in the third, thanks to Taylor’s arms and legs.
Taylor delivered a one-out double down the right-field line that kicked into the home bullpen. Bulldogs right fielder Mason Robinson could not field the ball cleanly, allowing Taylor to take third.
One pitch later, Caleb Ricca hit a chopper to third baseman Tanner Huddleston. With Taylor going on contact, Huddleston’s throw was slightly up the first-base line and Taylor used a swim move to touch home plate ahead of Chris Clayton’s tag to snap the tie.
“It was a good team win where we played clean,” Barbier said. “When you get that first run, it lets you breathe a little bit, especially when their guy is pitching really well. I thought (Taylor) made a really good slide. We’re trying to be aggressive, and I thought coach (Taylor) Dugas did a great job coaching third base, sending those guys and playing aggressive baseball.”
Taylor’s slide and subsequent run was enough for Maddox, who turned in one of his best performances of the season to help Northwestern State (26-18) finish a perfect 6-0 mark in home mid-week games.
The right-hander scattered three singles and struck out four in his longest scoreless outing of the season, delivering big pitches in key situations – none bigger than a called third strike against Clayton with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning.
“The fastball was working, but more importantly, the slider was working when I needed it to,” said Maddox, who earned his first win against the Bulldogs after taking two no-decisions a year ago. “That sets it up and makes it that much harder to hit when you’re commanding your fastball. I made it a point to really command the zone and challenge them in the strike zone rather than giving them free bags and being too fine with it. That really helped out.”
Maddox departed after hitting Parker Bates with a pitch to put the tying run on base with two outs in the sixth inning, turning the game over to Hodo, who breezed through three innings before the Bulldogs mounted their best offensive threat of the night.
With the Demons leading 3-0 courtesy of Jeffrey Elkins’ RBI single and a pair of Bulldogs’ eighth-inning errors, Hodo retired the first two hitters in the ninth before clipping Steele Netterville with a pitch.
Clayton tripled on a full-count pitch before Hodo recovered to retire Manny Garcia on a fly ball to shallow right field to earn his first save of the year. Hodo has four career saves, all of three or more innings.
Before Clayton’s triple, opposing batters were hitless in 19 straight at-bats against the Demons’ bullpen, dating to Peyton Graham’s 10-up, 10-down performance Sunday at Stephen F. Austin.
“He came in throwing strikes and did it just how it should be done,” Hodo said. “You see that, and you have to follow it up. We feed off each other in the bullpen. We see each other have success, and we have to build off it.”
The Demons continue their season-long, seven-game homestand this weekend when they host Grambling on Friday. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.