Demons set for final SLC visit to Incarnate Word

SAN ANTONIO – The last time the Northwestern State baseball team suffered a loss, it responded with a season-long, five-game win streak.

The last time the Demons took a trip to a Southland Conference ballpark they had not visited in nearly four years, they won two of three games.

Those patterns collide Friday when Northwestern State opens a three-game Southland Conference series at Incarnate Word, a place NSU has played at since May 2018. First pitch for the series opener is set for 6:30 p.m. with Saturday’s game starting at 6:30 as well before Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale. Free streaming audio of all three games will be available on and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.

“One of the biggest things in navigating the season is how you respond after not playing well,” sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “How do you respond after playing well? Sometimes you win and you don’t play well. Sometimes you lose and you play well. It’s the nature of our game. The ones who are around in the end are the ones who can respond and stay consistent in their level of play whether things are going good, bad or indifferent. I still think things are going well. We had a tough one (Wednesday), but we’ll practice and be ready to go (Friday).”

Northwestern State (15-13, 5-1) makes its third and final Southland Conference visit to Sullivan Field as the Cardinals (12-13, 2-4) are playing their final season as Southland members before leaving for the Western Athletic Conference.

The Demons have won each series they have played at UIW (2014, 2018) by a 2-1 margin. The teams split a four-game set in Natchitoches in the 2021 season.

Northwestern State comes into the weekend off a 9-6 loss at Lamar that snapped a five-game win streak, which began on the heels of an SLC-opening loss to New Orleans on March 25.

Through six Southland Conference games, the Demons have shown an ability to win games in multiple ways. NSU has two one-run wins in pitchers’ duels – a 2-1 March 26 victory at New Orleans and a 1-0, 10-inning walk-off win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on April 3 – and has also posted its first win against a team that scores in double figures in more than three years – a 16-10 win at New Orleans on March 27.

The Demons’ offense likely will be in the spotlight at Sullivan Field, which features one of the most expansive outfields in the Southland. In six previous games at UIW, the Demons have scored 42 runs, an average of seven runs per game.

“I don’t think (being at an unfamiliar stadium) affects our guys a whole lot,” Barbier said. “Going into UNO, a lot of guys hadn’t played there, and we played pretty well over there. I think we’ll be ready to go.”

While the Demons have won each of their first two conference series, the Cardinals come in having dropped two of three in each of their first two SLC weekends.

Much like having most of the team make their first visit to Sullivan Field, the Demons are focused on UIW’s overall body of work.

“They have a good team,” Barbier said. “They have some really good wins. They swept UTA here earlier in the season. They’re going to run out three solid starters who look like normal starters in our league and an offense that has 30 hits in their last two conference games combined. It will be a really tough test. We’re going to have to come out and play really well to win.”

Series Probables

Friday: Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (3-2, 3.76) at UIW TBA

Saturday: Northwestern State RHP Johnathan Harmon (4-2, 2.27) at UIW TBA

Sunday: Northwestern State RHP Drayton Brown (3-2, 3.38) at UIW TBA

PHOTO: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services