Home openers in any sport are special. The feeling is even stronger for coaches who are alumni of their current employers.
That is where seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier finds himself as his Northwestern State team hosts LSU-Alexandria at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Demons’ home opener. The game will air on ESPN+, marking the debut of NSU baseball on that platform.
“They make a joke that they are going to bury me in the stadium, under the bullpen,” said Barbier, who played four seasons for NSU and has spent two separate tenures on staff as a coach. “It is special. We’ve got a lot of friends who have called or texted and said they are going to be here Tuesday night. Opening night at your home park is pretty special. It will be good to see everyone come out, and hopefully the Demons play well.”
Northwestern State (0-3) dropped all three of its games in the South Alabama Jaguar Classic on opening weekend – two of which came by one run. NSU fell on opening night 3-2 to South Alabama before UAB edged the Demons 4-3 on Saturday.
“I thought we competed hard all three days,” Barbier said. “I have no problem with the effort and the competitive spirit. There are things we need to get cleaned up. When you play good teams, they expose your flaws. We saw what our flaws are, and now we have to work on them. It’s important to do that without being too emotional about the result. You have to learn from that and understand we play again (Tuesday). We play a good team, a really good team.”
The Generals are 8-5 on the season, having dropped two of three at LSU-Shreveport this past weekend in Red River Athletic Conference play. Those 10 extra games give LSUA a better read on where they are, having started the season with a three-game sweep of Oklahoma City University from Jan. 27-29.
Despite having just three games under their belts, the Demons learned from their performances in Mobile, Alabama, especially with respect to their younger players.
Freshmen Michael Dattalo and Caleb Castle each reached base safely in all three games with Dattalo producing a team-best .417 batting average and a pair of RBIs, which ties him for the team lead.
“Gray Rowlett has been hurt,” Barbier said. “We didn’t know Mike was playing until probably Thursday when we realized Gray wasn’t as far along. He did the most with his opportunity. He gave good at-bats. Even when he didn’t get hits, he gave good at-bats. In the first inning (Sunday), we had first and second with one out and he hits a screamer of a line drive that turns into a double play. If that ball is two steps to the left or right, we probably score two runs. It was good to see those guys get in those situations in a big stadium, in a good environment, and perform well.”
The Demons will start right-hander Chase Prestwich (0-0, 9.00) against General left-hander Dominic Thibodaux (0-0, 4.50).