Deeply linked Demons, Bulldogs meet in Ruston

RUSTON – Deeply tied to one another, the Northwestern State and Louisiana Tech baseball teams will break a bit of a drought Tuesday night.

For the first time in nearly three years, the Demons and Bulldogs will tangle on the diamond at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams have not squared off since April 30, 2019.

Tuesday’s meeting will be the first between the teams in Ruston since March 5, 2019 – a span of 1,134 days. Free streaming audio is available on or through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.

Since 1990, the Demons own a 36-27 lead in the longstanding rivalry whose ties grew deeper six years ago when Louisiana Tech hired head coach Lane Burroughs from Northwestern State, which in turn promoted Bobby Barbier to the head coach after two years on Burroughs’ NSU staff.

“I played for (Louisiana Tech associate head coach and former NSU head coach) Mitch (Gaspard) and worked for Lane, so there’s a lot between us,” Barbier said. “But it’s about us coming off a tough weekend, responding, playing well. It’s not about wins and losses. It’s about us playing well, playing clean.”

The Demons (15-16) play their fifth straight game away from Brown-Stroud Field, two days ahead of the beginning of their second straight road Southland Conference series at Nicholls.

NSU faces a Louisiana Tech (23-10) team won four of five games this past week, including a sweep of Conference USA rival Rice in Ruston. The Demons’ first visit to the rebuilt J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park comes 10 months after the Bulldogs hosted the first NCAA Regional in school history.

“They’ve got a really good team,” Barbier said. “They just swept Rice. They’ve put together another good season after last year’s historic season.”

Northwestern State will start right-hander Andrew Cossio (1-0, 9.00) while the Bulldogs will counter with right-hander Greg Martinez (2-1, 5.67). The Demons expect to throw several pitchers as they continue to work their way through their mid-week slate.

“It will be good for us to get those guys on the mound who maybe didn’t have as much success as we wanted this weekend to get back on the mound again and for us to have good at-bats throughout the lineup,” Barbier said.

Whether pitchers or position players, the Demons do not have to look far for examples of what Barbier wants to see.

Freshman right-hander Chase Prestwich tossed four shutout innings of relief in Friday’s series opener at UIW while right fielder Gabe Colaianni has emerged as the Demons’ leading hitter in average through the first nine Southland Conference games.

“(Prestwich) was special Friday, and we needed him to be,” Barbier said. “We get all fall and early spring to determine who the guys are who can really help us. Sometimes those guys get off to slow starts. He’s been great since the first time he stepped on campus. His best days are ahead of him for sure. Last weekend was a glimpse of what he can be.

“What Gabe’s done is a credit to him for continuing to work. Everybody wants to be in the lineup. When he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it. Gabe’s a worker. He’s always been that way. He’s a fighter. He likes t compete. That’s the type of guys who have made this place what it’s been over the years. I’m proud of what he’s done. He just has to keep it up.”

Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services