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Nicholls head coach Mike Silva, center, speaks with home plate umpire Rob Schlicher, left, and LSU head coach Jay Johnson before first pitch, Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at Alex Box Stadium on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

It had been a rough year for Nicholls State pitcher Tyler Theriot, who followed his first-team all-conference selection in 2022 with an ERA above 5.00, only two wins in the regular season and none since early March.

Redemption time came Friday in the Southland tournament. Facing the highest-scoring team in the league, Theriot held UNO in check for 6⅓ innings as the Colonels (33-22) won a crucial winners bracket game 5-3 in Lake Charles, becoming the only undefeated team left in the field.

Fourth-seeded UNO (36-23) rebounded to rally past No. 5 seed Northwestern State 7-3 later in the day, erupting for five runs in the top of the ninth inning to stay alive and set up a rematch with Nicholls at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Privateers will have to beat the Colonels twice on Saturday to prevent them from capturing their first Southland tournament championship since 1998.

“This is really important to (Theriot),” Nicholls coach Mike Silva said of his pitcher's performance. “The season obviously hasn’t gone how he wanted or how we wanted for him, but he prepares for these moments. I’m super proud for him and excited that he was able to have that type of success today on a really big stage when we needed it the most.”

Theriot was not flawless, giving up a two-run homer to Tyler Bischke in the third inning and a big solo shot to Jeissy de la Cruz that chased him with one out in the seventh. Still, he was plenty good enough to keep the Colonels ahead before handing the ball over to a bullpen that has been perfect in Lake Charles.

With Nicholls up 5-3, Gavin Galy retired the last eight batters in order for his first save, running the relievers’ string of scoreless innings to 13⅓ through three games. Using a liberal strike zone to his advantage, he struck out Miguel Useche and Anthony Herron looking back-to-back to end the game.

It was Galy’s first save but a familiar performance. His ERA in 18 appearances entering Friday was 2.01.

“Gavin’s done it for us all year,” Silva said. “He’s one of the better guys in the league right now.”

Nicholls struck first on MaCrae Kendrick’s run-scoring single in the second after Garrett Felix doubled with two outs off UNO’s Jack Williams (3-1). The Colonels increased the lead to 3-0 on Gerardo Villareal’s two-RBI single in the third — also with two outs.

Bischke’s blast — his third home run in four games over nine days against the Colonels — cut the advantage to 3-2, but the Privateers never caught up. Theriot allowed back-to-back singles in the fourth before getting nine consecutive outs while Edgar Alvarez hit a home run that made the score 4-2 in the sixth and Parker Coddrou singled in a run for a 5-2 lead in the seventh.

Nicholls hit a Southland-best .315 in league play, nearly 20 percentage points better than second-place UNO.

"It seems like it’s a different guy every night,” Silva said. “These guys really care about each other and they like to pick each other up. It’s awesome to see different guys step up in different moments.”

De la Cruz left the yard for UNO’s league-best 85th homer of the year in the bottom of the seventh, but it was not enough. The Privateers still can end an NCAA tournament drought that extends to 2008 if they double up the Colonels on Saturday.

The wait for Nicholls has been 10 years longer.

“We talk a lot about executing 15 seconds at a time and being batter indifferent and moving on to the next moment,” Silva said. “As you get closer, sometimes guys make it bigger, and you really have to make it smaller and compartmentalize it.”