The Northwestern State Demon baseball team watched a four run lead in the 7th inning disappear and lost Saturday 6-4 to McNeese State.

NSU SID News Release/Jason Pugh

NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State watched a four-run lead disappear in the seventh inning Saturday because of an adjustment made by McNeese State’s hitters.

The Demons saw their own potential ninth-inning rally halted in part by an umpire’s decision.

When the bizarre second game of a Southland Conference baseball series against McNeese State ended, however, Northwestern State found itself on the short end of a 6-4 score at Brown-Stroud Field.

The Demons (15-11, 7-3 Southland) trailed by two entering the bottom of the ninth. After McNeese’s Collin Kober recorded the first out, Joel Atkinson smacked a single up the middle and Nick Heath was hit by a pitch.

Cort Brinson, NSU’s leader in home runs and RBIs on the season, was hit by a 2-2 pitch by Kober. However, home plate umpire Matt Anderson called Brinson back, invoking the newly instituted rule that batters must make an attempt to avoid being hit by a pitch.

Two pitches later, Kober induced a double-play ball and allowed McNeese (17-10, 7-4) to earn a split of the first two games of the series.

“They changed the rule this year,” third-year head coach Lane Burroughs said. “The rule states you have to make an attempt to get out of the way. They had a play earlier in the game where the guy didn’t move, and they granted him first base. I told the guy at home plate, ‘I don’t mind being called back. What I want is consistency in the rule and the way it’s called.’ I have no problem with the rule, but there’s no consistency. Some guys call it, some guys don’t.”

Through six innings, the thought of a ninth-inning call deciding the game seemed unlikely.

Northwestern State scored single runs in the second, third, fifth and sixth innings, building a 4-0 lead behind right-hander Josh Oller.

Oller did what he does best, scatter hits and limit damage through the first six innings. He worked in and out of trouble and looked to be en route to his sixth win of the season.

Even in the seventh inning, when McNeese put runners on first and second to start the inning, Oller appeared to be on the verge of getting out of it, striking out Matt Gallier and Billy Sommers. However, pinch hitter Lucas Quary doubled home a run and ended Oller’s day after 6 2-3 innings and a career high eight strikeouts.

McNeese continued to swing the bats in the seventh, as the next four batters all reached base, culminating in Connor Lloyd’s go-ahead RBI double off Chase Hymel (0-2).

The rally made a winner out of Cole Prejean (1-1), who allowed an unearned run in the seventh inning but followed starter Trent Fontenot’s pattern of limiting damage.

NSU left eight men on base, including five in scoring position, and did not score more than one run in an inning.

“We had runners at second and third and one out (in the fourth inning) and we pop out to second,” Burroughs said. “We have guys, right now, who have a look in their eye that they don’t want to be the guy at the plate. We have guys who want to be at the plate. Bottom line is Josh Oller gave us a great start. He was at 110 pitches, and we had to get him out of there. It’s a long season. Our bullpen let us down today. We went left on left, and we walk the guy. You can’t do that against a good team.”

The series concludes Sunday with a 1 p.m. matchup at Brown-Stroud Field. NSU sends right-hander Jeffrey Stovall (3-2, 4.02) to the mound against McNeese right-hander Ethan Stremmel (3-2, 3.94).

NSU Demons/McNeese St. Cowboys Box Score

McNeese State 6, Northwestern State 4
McNeese State 000 000 510 – 6 11 4
Northwestern St. 011 011 000 – 4 8 1
W – Cole Prejean (1-1). L – Chase Hymel (0-2). S – Collin Kober (6). 2B – MSU, Connor Lloyd; Lucas Quary. NSU, C.J. Webster; David Fry. Highlights: MSU, Joe Provenzano 2-3; James Cantu 3-4; Lewis Guilbeau 2-3. NSU, Joel Atkinson 2-4; Cort Brinson 2-5, 2 RBIs; Fry 2-3, RBI.
Records: McNeese State 17-10, 7-4; Northwestern State 15-11, 7-3.