The Northwestern State baseball team comes home this weekend – and it will not leave for a while.
The Demons start a season-long, eight-game homestand at 6:30 p.m. Friday, hosting Alabama A&M in the opener of a three-game, non-conference series that also includes a 2 p.m. Saturday start and a 1 p.m. Sunday series finale. All three games will be available on ESPN+.
“We try to get a stretch like this early in the season, for more than anything, the fans,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “They get used to coming to the park. When you play at home one weekend and on the road the next, they fall out of getting used to it. It’s good for them. We’ve had such a great group come out to every game. It’s good for the guys to be at home.”
The Demons (6-6) won their third straight mid-week game Wednesday night behind another stellar start from right-hander Chase Prestwich, who held ULM to one run in the 3-1 NSU victory.
The visiting Bulldogs (7-5) are off to their best 14-game start in the third year of the Elliott Jones era. The seven wins are half of the Bulldogs’ 2022 total and nearly equal the nine wins in 2021, Jones’ first season.
Alabama A&M enters the weekend fifth nationally in stolen bases (43) and steals per game (3.58) after dropping a 14-0 decision to Southeastern on Wednesday in Huntsville, Alabama.
Although Northwestern State managed just seven hits against the Warhawks, Barbier remained confident in his offense because of the quality of at-bats the Demons produced.
“Our at-bats were really good,” Barbier said. “We stung some balls. We would have had three homers on a different day. Jeff (Elkins) hit a couple really well. Daunte (Stuart) hit one really well. Hopefully, we can keep that going. Like we told them, the opportunity to win is always going to be there, but you have to be ready to take it. Chase and Fro (reliever Kyle Froehlich) kept us right there yesterday even when we didn’t have as much fortune offensively.”
Part of the reason for Barbier’s confidence in his lineup has been Stuart’s production along with that of freshman Michael Dattalo.
Through 12 games, Dattalo leads the Demons in hits (19) and RBIs (10) while standing second behind Stuart in batting average (.404). Dattalo’s 3-for-4 performance against ULM was his third three-hit game of the season and his team-leading fifth multi-hit game of the season.
“We knew he could hit,” Barbier said. “He had a great fall. He’s quiet, doesn’t say a lot. He takes his singles, uses the whole field, fights with two strikes. He does everything we preach. He’s mature beyond his years.
“I’ve been just as impressed with him being comfortable defensively. He’s a third baseman we moved over to first base two or three weeks before the season started in case something happened to Gray (Rowlett), and something did happen. He’s just very mature for an 18- or 19-year-old.”
Dattalo and the rest of the Demon lineup will back the same starting rotation NSU will deploy for the fourth straight weekend – left-hander Cal Carver (1-1, 1.08) on Friday, right-hander Alex Makarewich (1-0, 4.50) and right-hander Drayton Brown (0-2, 5.94).