NATCHITOCHES – The road and less-than-welcomed weather have been constants for the Northwestern State baseball team early in the 2022 season.
At least one of those changes this weekend when the Demons start a nine-game homestand by hosting Alcorn in a three-game series. The set begins with a 6:30 p.m. Friday first pitch, continues with a 2 p.m. Saturday start and ends with a 1 p.m. Sunday matinee – weather permitting.
“We’ve played a bunch on the road early on,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “That’s the way it worked out. We had some home games that got rained out or moved. We’ve got more weather coming this weekend. That’s part of it early in the season. We’ve dealt with it before. It will be good to come home, work on a few things (Thursday) and be ready to go Friday.”
Northwestern State (3-9) last played at home March 1 against UL Lafayette, which was the Demons’ lone home appearance in a nine-game stretch. Five of those games were neutral-site contests in Arlington, Texas, against Oklahoma and Nebraska.
In NSU’s lone home weekend series of 2022, the Demons took two of three games from former Southland Conference rival Stephen F. Austin.
For Barbier and the Demons, coming home is as much about playing in front of familiar faces as it is about playing on a familiar field.
“The first weekend we had great crowds,” Barbier said. “They’ll be here again. I know the weather will be tough Saturday, but it’s supposed to be pretty nice on Sunday. It will be nice for them to see us again. It’s tough when you play at home and go away for a long time. It will be nice for the home fans to see us again.”
What has been consistently nice for the Demons has been the starting pitching on the weekends.
This past weekend, left-hander Cal Carver and right-handers Johnathan Harmon and Drayton Brown all recorded quality starts against Nebraska and UT Arlington. It marked the first time in 2022 all three weekend starters accomplished that feat. That trio will start in the same order this weekend.
Harmon worked a season-long seven innings while Carver and Brown each went six. Brown set a career high with his six-inning outing as he continues his transitions into a starting role after saving six games in 2021 as a freshman.
Against UTA, Brown allowed one hit and one run in six innings in a 1-0 Demon loss.
“He was fantastic,” Barbier said. “There are outcomes in pitching that are good, bad or indifferent – how the linescore looks – then there is execution of pitches and the quality of how your body is moving,” Barbier said. “That was important for him. He even mentioned it after the game. His body was live. He was athletic. Things we saw last year that maybe we didn’t see as much in his first two starts even though the outcomes were OK.
“It’s good for a guy to realize that and continue to work even though he’s had a little success. We’ve seen him pitch in a lot of big games and what he can be. He showed it on Sunday.”
Alcorn (0-8) enters the weekend off a 16-1 loss at Ole Miss on Wednesday.
“It’s coach-speak, but it’s about us getting better no matter who it is on our schedule – us getting better as we inch toward conference,” Barbier said. “We just need to continue to put back-to-back or multiple days of work in a row. That’s important for us.”
PHOTO: Gary Hardamon/NSU Photographic Services