The Nicholls State baseball team began Southland Conference play Friday night with a nail biter against Northwestern State on Ben Meyer Diamond in Ray E. Didier Field.

The Colonels had a 5-2 lead entering the ninth inning, but the Demons scored twice to get within a run. With one out and runners and first and second bases, Nicholls turned a 6-4-3 double play to escape with a 5-4 victory.

However, the hard slide by Northwestern State’s Kwan Adkins that took out Colonels second baseman Ethan Valdez caused a dugouts-clearing kerfuffle after the game. Fortunately, no punches were thrown, and the incident quickly ended.

“I was very proud of our guys. We had to fight back against a really good arm and a good baseball team,” Colonels head coach Seth Thibodeaux said. “We found a way. It wasn’t easy to do what we did.”

“The game was a really good fight,” Demons coach Chris Bertrand said. “We don’t the end of the ballgame or anything surrounding the game on the field to take away from the fact that was a hard-fought baseball game. We’re happy with the way our team competed for nine innings.”

Colonel pitcher Alex Ernestine earned the win with seven strikeouts, two hits and two earned runs in eight innings. Jacob Bedevian got the save. Demon pitcher Nathan Jones took the loss with four strikeouts, seven hits, three walks and four runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Northwestern St. (7-7, 0-1 SLC) got on the scoreboard in the first inning when a double by J.P. Lagreco plated Adkins.

Ernestine escaped further trouble in the second. With runners on second and third bases and one out, he forced a pop up and strikeout to end in the inning. Ernestine kept Demon batters at bay over the next six innings, permitting three hits and a run.

“He started getting two and three straight pitches for strikes. When he did that, we were able to make a few plays behind him,” Thibodeaux said. “He had a five-pitch inning, and that really escalated for a couple of more innings. He really competed, and that’s all I can ask for.”

Nicholls St. (4-10, 1-0 SLC) tied the game 1-1 in the third when a Demons error allowed Valdez to score from first base.

The Colonels broke the game open in the fifth inning. Lee Clark led off by drawing an 11-pitch walk, and a double by Brady Bell (3-for-3, RBI) brought him home. After a Valdez single put runners on the corners, Joey Morales (1-for-3, 2 RBIs) smacked a triple to left-centerfield, plating Bell and Valdez, plus a Demons error allowed Morales to score for a 5-1 Colonels lead.

“The first four innings, we had some great at-bats and nothing to show for it,” Thibodeaux explained. “Lee Clark’s at-bats got everything going because it kind of wore into the pitcher, and we were able to get some barrels on pitches after that.”

“It’s a credit to Nicholls. After that leadoff walk, it was three consecutive hits in a row,” Bertrand said. “Nathen pitched really well. That’s why we roll him out on Friday nights, so he can go out and give us a chance to win. Even with that inning, we’re still one swing away.”

The Demons got a run in the sixth as an Austin Stegall (2-for-4, RBI) double scored Tyler Smith.

In the ninth, Stegall scored from third on a wild pitch by Colonels reliever Parker White, and a double from Lenni Kunert plated Caleb Ricca.

After Colonel reliever Austin Bollinger allowed a walk, Bedevian forced the game-ending double play.

“We just didn’t get timely hits,” Bertrand said. “We need to come out and play the way we’re capable of playing. We’re going to put (Friday night) behind us, learn from the mistakes we made and play our brand of baseball.”

“For our guys to keep their composure and turn a double play in the biggest part of the game, and Bedevian to come out of the pen and give us one pitch, that’s what it’s all about,” Thibodeaux said. “I ain’t concerned about the way game ended. I just want to win (Saturday). Our guys are going to be ready to play.”

The weekend series continues at 6 tonight and concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday.