SUGAR LAND, Texas – For several years, the goal of the Northwestern State baseball team was to play games at the end of May in Constellation Field.
The site of the Southland Conference Tournament for six years, the stadium in suburban Houston was a guidepost for the Demons and a start to their national postseason aspirations.
In 2018, it became a field of dreams for NSU, which won its first SLC Tournament championship in program history by defeating New Orleans there. Four-plus years later, it is home to NSU’s second straight in-season tournament weekend as the Demons take part in the first Sugar Land Space Cowboys Collegiate Classic.
NSU opens tournament play Friday at 3 p.m. facing Seton Hall and will also take on New Mexico State at 11 a.m. Saturday before concluding the three-game set against Stephen F. Austin at 2 p.m. Sunday. Free streaming audio of Friday’s and Sunday’s games will be available on www.NSUDemons.com and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.
“Tough on the staff to prepare for three more new teams, but they’re great and they work their tail off for it,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “It will be good to play there again. They’ve made some changes to the park. It will be a little easier to hit a home run there then it was back in the day, but it will be fun to play three good teams.”
The Demons (1-3) walked out of Constellation Field as SLC Tournament champions in 2018, so no current NSU players were on the active roster at that time. However, the NSU coaching staff was all there in some capacity.
Barbier and associate head coach Chris Bertrand were on staff while current assistant coaches Spencer Goodwin and Dan Hlad were in different roles. Goodwin was a graduate assistant while Hlad picked up a save in the tournament opener and started the title game.
“It will be really neat to go in a tournament-type setting, too, where there are games before you,” Barbier said. “That’s always fun. The other teams are sitting there waiting for you or you can get there early and watch the other games that are going on. It brings baseball back to when you were a kid. We all played American Legion tournaments that were fun. It will probably be a little sentimental for them.”
While the Demons no longer have active players on their roster from the 2018 team, there are current NSU players who were recruits at the time and have ties to the greater Houston area.
Junior outfielder Jacob Farrell, a native of the northwest suburb of Cypress, Texas, had his own reason to celebrate the night the Demons held off New Orleans, 6-4, to clinch their fourth regional berth in program history.
“My graduation party was that day, so we had it on TV,” Farrell said. “I remember it very vividly. I have played there a few times in travel ball, being from Houston. It’s been a while, so it’s changed a little bit, but I’m used to it.”
Farrell is joined by Lathen Buzard (Richmond), Caleb Castle (Houston), Andrew Cossio (Spring), James Starnes (Spring), Daunte Stuart (The Woodlands) and Bo Willis (Magnolia) as Houston-area Demons.
With the Sugar Land Space Cowboys having gained Triple-A affiliation with the Houston Astros ahead of the 2021 season, this weekend’s tournament marks the second straight season the Demons will play a series in a Triple-A or higher ballpark. A year ago, the Demons faced off with Oklahoma at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers.
“We hope when we recruit guys and convince them this is the spot for them, they know we are going to play in these spots,” Barbier said. “We’re going to play in major league parks and Triple-A parks and the Oregons of the world. South Al was a great stadium over there. We want to give these guys and experience while they’re here, not just practice baseball all the time, but to have that experience of playing in those places.”
Friday: Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (0-0, 0.00) vs. Seton Hall TBA
Saturday: Northwestern State RHP Alex Makarewich (0-0, 4.50) vs. New Mexico State RHP Tyler Hoeft (0-1, 6.23)
Sunday: Northwestern State RHP Drayton Brown (0-1, 6.35) vs. Stephen F. Austin TBA