Steady rotation leads Demons into weekend set with UTA

In the first six seasons of the Bobby Barbier era of Northwestern State baseball, starting pitching often has been the Demons’ defining characteristic.

Northwestern State has had one of its weekend starters drafted in each of the past four Major League Baseball First-Year Player Drafts, including one in the five-round 2020 event.

Entering this weekend’s three-game series against UT Arlington, which begins with a Friday 6:30 p.m. matchup, the Demons’ starters are holding up their end of the bargain and living up to the standards set before them. The series also includes a Saturday 2 p.m. matinee and Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale. All three games will air on ESPN+.

“We talked about it before the season – trust,” Barbier said. “It takes a lot in practice. We’re really big on bullpens. In bullpens, you can’t hide behind some bad at-bats. We try to make it hard on them. (Assistant coach) Dan (Hlad) has done a really good job of getting with those guys and figuring them out – what they do well. He really prepares to call the game this year.”

Senior left-hander Cal Carver (1-0) has been at the head of the Demon rotation since the final two weeks of the 2021 season and has started 18 straight series or conference openers for Northwestern State.

Carver has shined in his first two starts against South Alabama and Seton Hall, striking out 12 across 11 innings and allowing just three hits as he echoes his fast start to the 2021 season when he began the year as the Demons’ Saturday starter.

“He has matured from his time when he first got here, not just in stuff and the ability to pitch, but his attitude, his competitiveness, his being a good teammate,” Barbier said. “He’s come a long way in all of those things. I’m proud of him for it.”

Backing Carver in the rotation are a pair of junior right-handers who took similar paths to the rotation.

Junior right-hander Alex Makarewich is slated to start Saturday, making his third start of both the season and of his career after moving into the rotation this season. A product of Keller (Texas) High School, Makarewich is following in the same footsteps laid forth by rotationmate and classmate Drayton Brown, who made the move last season after saving six games for the Demons as a freshman in 2021.

Both Makarewich and Brown have pitched into the sixth inning in at least one of their first two starts of the season with Makarewich striking out a career-high 11 in his most recent start against New Mexico State on Feb. 25.

“To create a good program, they need to learn from each other,” Barbier said. “Hopefully, those two can teach the next crop how to learn from them. That’s what creates a good program and a good staff. (Brown and Makarewich) are different type pitchers, but (Makarewich can learn from Brown) in terms of preparation – the weightlifting schedule, the how do we watch the opponent. It’s a little tougher on Cal to go through the lineup before we see what they look like. I would think they all benefit from each other.”

Series Probables

Friday: UTA RHP Gabe Starks (0-0. 6.23) at Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (1-0, 0.00)

Saturday: UTA RHP Bryce Hackett (0-1, 7.20) at Northwestern State RHP Alex Makarewich (1-0, 3.60)

Sunday: UTA LHP Caden Noah (2-0, 3.27) at Northwestern State RHP Drayton Brown (0-1, 6.75)