HAMMOND – Aside from the familiarity with its opponent, the Northwestern State baseball team will have a bit of a different weekend.
When the Demons head to Southeastern Louisiana for a three-game series that begins Thursday night at 6 p.m., they will play on a Thursday night for the first time this season.
Throw in a Friday night game (6 p.m.) that marks Northwestern State’s first appearance of the season on Cox Sports Television and there are plenty of nuances to the Demons’ fifth Southland Conference series of the season.
“It’s always good to be on TV and let people around the state see the brand of baseball we play and our conference plays,” said first-year head coach Bobby Barbier, whose team’s three-game series at Kansas in March was televised on ESPN3. “Our conference does a great job of bringing in good players and playing tough schedules. Hopefully, they’ll see that Friday.”
While CST’s attention will focus on Friday, the Demons (10-21, 3-9) are tuned in to the series opener when sophomore right-hander Nathan Jones (3-4, 5.55) will match up against Lions junior right-hander Mac Sceroler (5-1, 3.20).
The Demons have dropped five straight conference games, two of which have been decided by one run. The most recent in the streak was a 3-2 loss Sunday at Stephen F. Austin when the Lumberjacks scored twice in the ninth to complete a weekend sweep.
Barbier said his team could take away some key lessons from a rough weekend in Nacogdoches.
“(SFA) has that belief that they can’t lose,” Barbier said. “We’ve scuffled some, but we’ve got to develop that belief. The only way to do that is by doing that, by making plays to win the game. It takes some guys longer than others, but we’re going to get there.”
The Lions reached the halfway point of their conference schedule at 8-7 in conference play and 20-12 overall.
Southeastern Louisiana has won 13 of its 16 games inside Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field, producing a true home-field advantage the Demons will try to dent. The Lions have won both of their conference series at home, going 4-2 against Lamar and McNeese.
“I know they got beat two of three at Corpus last week, but that’s always a tough place to play,” Barbier said. “They’re good. We recruited a bunch of their guys, so we know them. (Head coach) Matt (Riser) and I are really good friends. They’re good, and they’ll be ready to go. They’re always competing for something at this time of the year.
“We’re competing for something, too. We’re trying to do our best to play our best game on Thursday. Let’s go out and play our best game and let the chips fall where they may.”
The Demons have lined up the same starting rotation they used for the first time against Stephen F. Austin.
Right-handers Evan Tidwell (1-4, 6.55) and Austin Reich (0-1, 6.75) will follow Jones in the rotation with Tidwell starting Friday and Reich taking the ball in Saturday’s 1 p.m. series finale.
Reich made his first Southland Conference start this past weekend, working four scoreless innings in the series finale at Stephen F. Austin.
“I thought he kept his composure,” Barbier said. “You don’t want to see five walks, obviously, but it was nice to see him under control. What Austin can do is get poor swings with his fastball, because it is so good, and his developing breaking stuff. Hopefully, he can build on that.”
Thursday: Northwestern State RHP Nathan Jones (3-4, 5.55) at Southeastern Louisiana RHP Mac Sceroler (5-1, 3.20)
Friday: Northwestern State RHP Evan Tidwell (1-4, 6.55) at Southeastern Louisiana RHP Corey Gaconi (2-3, 3.130
Saturday: Northwestern State RHP Austin Reich (0-1, 6.75) at Southeastern Louisiana RHP Carlisle Koestler (1-2, 5.45)