NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State baseball team’s weekend series with North Alabama already was different from the other 13 weekends on the Demons’ schedule.
And that was before Mother Nature intervened again.
The Demons and Lions open a four-game weekend series a few hours earlier than expected with a 3 p.m. first pitch Friday afternoon at Brown-Stroud Field. Projected chilly temperatures Friday evening precipitated the decision to move the game up from its original 6:30 p.m. start time.
The series against North Alabama marks the first time NSU has played a four-game series since 2015 when it opened the season with four at Troy, a series that also included the last scheduled doubleheader for the Demons, who played six weather-induced doubleheaders during the 2019 season.
“Scheduling’s tough,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “When you have another coach who wants to play four games, we’re open ears if it works out for us. As for doubleheaders, we’re going to have to do it throughout the year. There’s going to be a conference weekend where we have to play a doubleheader. This is preparation for us. That’s all it is.”
In addition to the series opener, the teams will play a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday before closing the series with a 1 p.m. single game.
The Demons took two of three games from Wichita State on opening weekend, marking the second time in four seasons Northwestern State (2-1) had won a season-opening series against an American Athletic Conference team since 2017.
This weekend’s matchup with North Alabama (1-3), a team the Demons face for the first time, will present a much different challenge. Wichita State remains a household name in college baseball while the Lions moved to Division I in 2019. Facing a team transitioning from Division II to Division I is something with which some of the Demons are familiar.
Southland Conference members Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian finished their transitional period ahead of the 2017-18 academic year. Several Demons, including pitcher Kyle Swanson, outfielder Tyler Smith and utility player Lenni Kunert, competed against ACU as it finished its transition.
“Baseball’s unique in that you can get some transfers in and make that transition easier,” Barbier said. “Look at Incarnate Word and Abilene Christian. They got good pretty fast. Abilene’s got a good team this year, and Incarnate Word did what they did last year.”
Playing four games in a weekend also will allow Barbier to extend his pitching staff.
The Demons used nine pitchers in the series against Wichita State. Because of weather in the area, the Demons’ first scheduled mid-week game of the season – Tuesday night against ULM – was postponed, leaving Barbier with some fresher arms for the series.
“We’ve got guys who need to throw,” he said. “There are guys I want to see out there. I want to see if they can help us. The guys we saw in the first weekend, you want to see them go out there again, but we have some guys who have earned the right to see if they can help us. It forces our hand a little.”
Streaming audio and video of all three games will be provided on www.NSUDemons.com. There also will be a Mardi Gras theme throughout the weekend, including throws and a king cake giveaway.
Friday: North Alabama RHP Hunter Davidson (0-1, 1.69) at Northwestern State RHP Logan Hofmann (1-0, 0.00)
Saturday: North Alabama LHP Jacob Laws (0-1, 7.71) and LHP Chase Best (1-0, 5.40) at Northwestern State LHP Reed Michel (0-1, 3.60) and TBA
Sunday: North Alabama RHP Keegan Foge (0-1, 6.23) at Northwestern State RHP Johnathan Harmon (0-0, 1.50)