The wonder of playing at a Major League Baseball stadium is behind the Northwestern State baseball team.
The work resumes for the Demons on Tuesday night as they host state rival UL Lafayette at 6 p.m. in the first of a two-game, home-and-home series. The second meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in Lafayette. Free streaming audio and subscription video are available on www.NSUDemons.com and through the Northwestern State Athletics app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.
“If you were at the games this weekend, you saw two good baseball teams competing really hard,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said of his team’s three-game series against Oklahoma at Globe Life Field. “That was the goal going into it and for the rest of the season – how many days can we show up and compete? I hope it’s all of them. We have so far. Sometimes things work out your way, and sometimes they don’t. I thought we did that this weekend in a really neat venue. I’m so appreciative of the Rangers letting us use it and for Oklahoma to set it up because of the bad weather in Norma. Now, we have to do it again.”
Northwestern State (3-3) won the opening game of the series against the Sooners before dropping the next two. Down I-35 from Arlington, the Ragin’ Cajuns (3-4) dropped all three of their games in the Karbach Round Rock Classic at Dell Diamond.
UL Lafayette faced Stanford, Indiana and Arkansas in the round-robin event.
While Tuesday’s meeting will be the first regular-season meeting between the teams since a 10-8 Northwestern State win Feb. 26, 2020, the teams have seen each other since then.
“We played them in the fall,” Barbier said. “They did like us and ran 15 or 16 arms out there at us, and I think all of them competed very hard in the strike zone. That’s going to be more of the same for the next few teams we’re going to play. We’ve got to get used to that. We have to make a pitcher change what he wants to do, take something away from him. At some points this weekend, (Oklahoma) made it really tough on us. They kept coming at us with really good stuff. When the stuff is more normal, how do we adjust to making them do something they don’t want to do? I’m looking forward to our offense moving forward. This weekend, the strikeout numbers were high. Will we let that affect us, or will we make a conscious effort to dominate that strike zone in the next two games?”
The Demon offense has been powered by a pair of outfielders – one veteran and one newcomer.
Fifth-year senior Larson Fontenot leads the Demons with a .360 average after a two-hit game in Sunday’s series finale. Since the start of the 2021 season, Fontenot is hitting .311 in 135 at-bats and has stolen 16 bases in 18 attempts.
“There’s no price you put on experience,” Barbier said. “He’s such a different player than when he showed up here five years ago, and it’s a credit to him working toward his development. When he puts it on the ground, you better field it clean and get rid of it pretty quickly or he’s going to beat it out. It shows you what athleticism brings to your lineup.”
First-year Demon Broch Holmes ranks third on the team with a .292 average after a two-hit game Sunday. Holmes had the biggest hit in the Demons’ 4-2 win Friday, a two-run, eighth-inning single for his first two NSU RBIs.
“He played great all weekend,” Barbier said. “He’s got big bat speed. You can tell who’s swinging when he’s in the box. He’s done a great job making adjustments with (associate head) coach (Chris) Bert(rand) and being ready to hit in games. We brought him in to do what he’s doing – hitting in the middle of the lineup. I’m proud of him and looking forward to seeing him compete from here on out.”
NSU will start right-hander Chase Prestwich (0-1, 6.00) on Tuesday and has not named a starter for Wednesday’s series finale.
Photo: Chris Brown/NSU Athletics