By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE – Blaine Smith was locked in with two strikes.
Smith's two-run triple in the second inning backed 14 strikeouts between Kush and Boyd and NWF State (10-5) responded from Saturday's doubleheader loss to Coastal Alabama - South with a 5-0 win over the Boll Weevils.
"We were happy the weather held up and we were able to get this one in because you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth," NWF State coach Doug Martin said. "You want to follow a negative with a positive as quick as you can."
Kush struck out seven and allowed four hits and two walks over four innings to pick up the win. A pivotal point came in the fourth inning after he walked a pair and was clinging to a 3-0 with two on and just one out.
After a mound visit, the freshman righthander induced a groundout and a flyout to escape the jam.
"I thought Jacob threw a lot of pitches and that's why we had to get him out, but he put up zeros and was able to strand some runners," Martin said.
In relief, Boyd was unhittable.
The freshman righthander struck out seven and allowed just two walks over five scoreless frames.
"I thought Jackson was outstanding, really in command of what he was doing and working both sides of the plate with his fastball and mixing in his changeup and breaking ball," Martin said. "That was good to see.
"The game was in doubt. It was three-nothing. It wasn't like it was a blowout, so any kind of letdown or loss of focus or concentration, it could've been a tie ballgame. Jackson kept us in there and focused."
So what was working for Boyd?
"Everything," said the Australian. "Coming out of the pen, everything was working for me and everything felt good."
It was perfect timing after Saturday's pair of losses.
"It hurt because we weren't expecting it after that eight-game win streak," Boyd said. "We just wanted to come back and destroy these guys."
Well, The Raiders didn't exactly destroy the visitors.
But Smith did destroy the two-strike fastball that traveled around 370 feet to dead center and made it 2-0 in the second inning.
"I had two strikes so I shorted up, choked up on the bat a little bit and saw a fastball in the zone and tried to do what I could with it," Smith said.
"That was a big hit to get us going and we needed it because we had a guy at third with less than two outs before the strikeout," Martin said. "That hit was the difference of the game."
Smith, who entered the day hitting .379, later came home on an error and scored again as part of a two-run seventh when Will Moriarty delivered a sacrifice fly and Zach McKnight crossed the plate on an error.
It was just one of five errors for the Boll Weevils. NWF State, which got three of its six hits from Jake Randa, had zero errors.
"We made the routine plays routine," Martin said. "That's what we got to do – just catch it when they hit it to you. You don't have to be fancy. We did that today a lot better than this weekend and it was a good sign to see that."
It helped that Kush and Boyd made the defense's life easy with 14 strikeouts and a slew of soft-hit balls.
"They both were able to throw multiple pitches for strikes," Martin said. "They had some offspeed work in there and that's the key – you got to be able to mix it up and can't rely on just one pitch."
Smith called their stuff "incredible."
"As long as they're in the zone, they usually get a lot of easy outs and get out of the inning with zeros," Smith said.
Up next the Raiders host Santa Fe Friday for a 4 p.m. first pitch before a doubleheader at home Saturday against Motlow State and East Mississippi.