Two big swings by Bo Willis put the Northwestern State baseball team in a good spot Tuesday night.
However, the Demons needed more than Willis’ two home runs against UL Lafayette, falling 11-8 to the Ragin’ Cajuns at Brown-Stroud Field in the first mid-week matchup of the season.
“We played poorly for the first time this year,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “That’s all you can say. We had four errors on the board and probably eight or nine total we made. We had guys out, and we can make excuses, but we have to go out and make plays. If we make half the mistakes we made, we win that game pretty handily.”
Willis’ first of two home runs was a first-inning grand slam that got the Demons (3-4) off to a good start. Batting cleanup for the first time this season, Willis erased a 2-0 NSU deficit with his second homer of the season after Larson Fontenot and Gray Rowlett walked and Broch Holmes followed with a single off UL Lafayette starter Austin Perrin.
The first five Demons of the game reached base, setting the tone for a night in which NSU put runners on base in each inning. However, from the first inning until the eighth, the Demons could not find another run-scoring hit.
In that time, the Cajuns began to pepper starter Chase Prestwich (0-2) and the Demon bullpen with runners and stolen bases.
Led by Carson Roccaforte’s five stolen bases, the Cajuns swiped eight bags in nine attempts. While the Demons left 14 runners on base, UL Lafayette stranded just two.
“That’s the story of the game – we left 14 on base and they left two,” Barbier said. “The majority of that is our fault. We kept turning singles into doubles and triples. You can’t do that against good teams. We’ve got to learn from the mistakes we made and move forward.”
The Cajuns’ eight stolen bases made up for an offense that had 10 singles among its 11 hits. Will Veillon’s leadoff triple was the only extra-base hit the Demons surrendered.
After taking the 4-2 lead after the first inning, the Demons were unable to score against Drew Shifflet (1-0) and Brandon Talley across the next five innings despite having seven runners on base in those innings, including leadoff hits by Miguel Vega (single) and Cam Sibley (double) in the third and fourth innings.
Vega’s single followed a four-run Cajuns third inning that began with a walk and a hit by pitch by Prestwich, who gave up six runs on six hits in 2 1-3 innings in his first career start.
Trailing 9-5 in the eighth, Willis again breathed life into the Brown-Stroud Field crowd again when he drilled the first pitch from Jacob Schultz over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run with one out.
Vega followed by drawing a walk and pinch runner Jeffrey Elkins reached third on Gabe Colaianni’s two-out single. However, Schultz got a groundout to escape the threat and wiggled out of a two-on, two-out jam in the ninth to record a five-out save.
“(Willis) got a hold of a couple of them,” Barbier said. “The second one hasn’t landed yet. That’s the thing, when you get a career day like that, if you just play the game correctly, you win that one, but it was good to see him get going.”
Willis and Cameron Parikh (2-for-5) had multi-hit games for NSU while Roccaforte (3-for-4), Kyle DeBarge (2-for-4) and Veillon (2-for-4) did so for the Cajuns.
The Demons and Cajuns play the second game of the home-and-home series Wednesday night at 6 at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field in Lafayette.
UL Lafayette 11, Northwestern State 8
ULL 204 200 012 – 11 11 1
NSU 400 000 130 – 8 10 4
W – Drew Shifflet (1-0). L – Chase Prestwich (0-2). S – Jacob Schultz (1). 2B – NSU, Cam Sibley. 3B – ULL, Will Veillon. HR – NSU, Bo Willis 2 (3). Highlights: ULL, Veillon 2-4, 3B; Kyle DeBarge 2-4, 3 RBIs; Carson Roccaforte 3-4, 3 RBIs. NSU, Willis 2-6, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs; Cameron Parikh 2-5.
Records: UL Lafayette 4-4, Northwestern State 3-4.