By: Jason Pugh, Assistant Sports Information Director
A year after proving the preseason pollsters incorrect, the Northwestern State baseball team has been slotted in a familiar position in the annual Southland Conference Preseason Baseball Poll.
The survey of the league’s coaches and sports information directors found the Demons picked to finish in third place, the same place they ended the 2018 season. A year ago, Northwestern State was tabbed for an 11th-place finish before ultimately winning the conference tournament and reaching the NCAA Regionals.
“We proved last year those things really don’t matter,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “We were picked to finish 11th. It’s something for people to talk about other than in the locker room. We didn’t talk about 11th a whole lot. We’re really concentrating on practice today. Anything that deviates from that is not good for us.”
The Demons picked up 250 total points, eight points behind second-place Southeastern Louisiana and 34 behind defending regular-season champion and preseason favorite Sam Houston State.
The Bearkats collected 22 of the possible 26 first-place votes while the Lions had three and the Demons nabbed the remaining nod for the league’s top spot. Coaches and SIDs were not allowed to vote for their own teams in the poll.
“It’s nice to get recognized by your peers as having improved,” said Barbier, who steered the Demons to an 18-win overall improvement and an eight-game bump in conference play from 2017 to 2018. “That’s them seeing us improve as a team.”
Central Arkansas (200 points), McNeese (187), Houston Baptist (169), New Orleans (130) and Lamar (128) round out the rest of the top eight spots in the poll. Eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, which is scheduled for May 22-25 at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
Northwestern State begins its 2019 season Feb. 15 at Houston in the opener of a three-game series. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.
2019 Southland Conference Preseason Baseball Poll*
1. Sam Houston State (22) 284
2. Southeastern Louisiana (3) 258
3. Northwestern State (1) 250
4. Central Arkansas 200
5. McNeese 187
6. Houston Baptist 169
7. New Orleans 130
8. Lamar 128
9. Nicholls 120
10. Incarnate Word 104
11. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 97
12. Stephen F. Austin 63
13. Abilene Christian 38
* first-place votes in parentheses