MONROE – For the Northwestern State baseball team, Wednesday night’s matchup with ULM is about opportunities – both those that have been presented and ones that lie ahead.
The Demons make their first mid-week road trip of the season, traveling to Monroe to face the longtime rival Warhawks in a 6 p.m. first pitch at Warhawk Field.
“To get on the bus and go play is a little bit different from what we have been doing,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “It’s a different set of circumstances where we have to be tough enough to handle it, because we’re going to do it a lot this season. It will be good to get them on the road again after having a few home games strung together.”
The Demons (5-6) split four games on their most recent homestand, winning the mid-week matchup against Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 28 before dropping two of three against UT Arlington from March 3-5.
Northwestern State is 2-0 in mid-week games this season with wins at home against LSU-Alexandria and SFA. Sophomore right-hander Chase Prestwich (1-0, 2.45) has started both games and has delivered two strong starts.
After allowing two runs in the first three batters against LSUA, Prestwich has tossed shutout baseball across his last 10 innings. He is scheduled to start Wednesday’s game.
“He’s matured as far as his stuff goes – he’s throwing the ball harder and his breaking ball is sharper,” Barbier said. “He’s also matured as far as his mentality. He’s in good shape to pitch. He and Alex (Makarewich) are kind of the same, but we didn’t ask him to stretch out as much last year. They both responded well. His preparation has been good. His willingness to learn and change from year to year has made him what he is now. It’s still a process of him improving from outing to outing, but we’re excited with the start he’s off to.”
Prestwich has given the Demons deep mid-week starts twice, which has lessened the need for multiple NSU arms to get work in those settings.
While the need has been lessened, the importance of those innings has not.
“We wanted to have four starters when the season started,” Barbier said. “At some point, especially if he keeps pitching well, we’ll have to move Chase to the weekend as far as the bullpen goes. This is a good opportunity for those other guys to get those innings and for us to have that true bullpen where guys can get an inning or two mid-week and be ready for the weekend. We’ll see who responds to that and who recovers and work some new guys into some different roles.”
Although the Warhawks (5-7 entering Tuesday night’s game against Memphis) and Demons have not shared a conference for more than a decade, the importance of the rivalry remains visible to Barbier and his staff.
“Fed (ULM head coach Mike Federico) and I are good friends, and he’s done a really good job up there,” Barbier said. “They’ve got an extra game in there this week, which I guess you can look at as a positive or a negative for us. We’re excited to get over there and play them. It’s a good series we have with them every year. We’re happy to play them.”