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College baseball: NSU gets first win in home opener

by Russell Hedges

By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Sports Athletic Director for Media Relations

NATCHITOCHES – Chase Prestwich did not earn the win Tuesday night against LSU-Alexandria, but he put his Northwestern State baseball team in position to do so.

Prestwich bounced back from allowing three straight hits to open the game to pitch five strong innings, giving the Demon offense time to wake up in a 5-4 NSU victory in the 2023 home opener at Brown-Stroud Field.

“Chase is the reason we won the game,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “They came out swinging. Two runs in the first three hitters on decent pitches. Chase allowed us to get there. There’s no secret we were struggling offensively coming out of the weekend, but you’re only struggling as long as you think you are. A lot of our guys need to understand that.

“When you get a guy on the mound who’s a bulldog and gets you to the sixth inning on a Tuesday, we’re able to throw our bullpen guys on the weekend because we kept them on short stints.”

Prestwich took a no-decision but kept the Demons (1-3) within striking distance when the visiting Generals, who were playing the game as an exhibition, threatened to take the crowd out of the game right away.

After LSUA started the game with a Zach Mengarelli single, a Cameron Daigle double and a two-run Blaise Foote single, Prestwich locked in and turned the longest outing of his NSU career. A sophomore from Fredrick, Colorado, Prestwich struck out a career-high seven and did not walk a batter. 

He did not allow a hit after Peyton Marcantel’s two-out infield single in the first, retiring the final 13 Generals he faced.

“They got some good swings at the start, but I was able to settle in,” Prestwich said. “I was throwing a lot more sliders for strikes, and I was able to get my changeup going in the later innings. After the third inning, I really started to settle in and got in a groove. I was making some good pitches and that relaxed me.”

With a relaxed Prestwich zipping through the LSUA order – he needed 47 pitches to complete his final four innings after a 30-pitch first inning – the Demon bats gradually awakened.

Held hitless for 3 2-3 innings by three LSUA pitchers, the Demons broke through on Jake Haze’s RBI double in the fourth inning that scored Gabe Colaianni, who had drawn a two-out walk. Haze’s RBI knock started a run of five straight one-run innings.

Freshman Caleb Castle was in the middle of the next two, starting the fourth-inning rally with a double and scoring on fellow freshman Michael Dattalo’s sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2. The next inning, Castle hooked an RBI single to left field, scoring Haze with the run that put NSU ahead to stay.

“I feel pretty comfortable going to the plate with a good approach and good feedback from the coaches,” said Castle, who went 2-for-4 and has reached base safely in all four of his career games. “I was just trying to take the ball oppo today, because they are a big offspeed team.”

The Demons continued to tack on runs inning by inning as Dattalo singled home Jacob Farrell, who led off the seventh with a single, before Jeffrey Elkins’ eighth-inning single scored Colaianni, who led off with a single. In four career games against LSUA, Elkins has driven in eight runs.

His eighth proved to be pivotal as the Generals loaded the bases with one out in the ninth and scored twice before Gus Collins got Dylan Gaspard to ground out to Haze with the tying run at third.

“We put together some innings at the end and got a big two-out hit there to score a run,” Barbier said. “Caleb Castle got a couple of really good swings. We’ve just got to do it more often. We need more constant pressure on the other team for nine innings.”

The Demons return to action Friday when they open play in the Sugar Land Space Cowboys College Classic against Seton Hall. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Constellation Field.

— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

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