Demons open Southland play at New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – While the Northwestern State baseball team’s all-time series with New Orleans is not as long as some of its other Southland rivals, the Demons should be more than familiar with the Privateers once this weekend ends.

For the third time in their past nine Southland Conference series, the Demons (13-11) will square off with the Privateers (14-11, 1-2) when they open their three-game conference series at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Maestri Field. The series also includes a 2 p.m. Saturday matchup and a 1 p.m. Sunday series finale. Free streaming audio of the games will be available on and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.

“All three of their guys they’ve thrown on the weekends are guys who have been there,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “(Brandon) Mitchell has been there six years, I think. (Tyler) LeBlanc, who throws on Friday, we faced him quite a few times. We just have to go play well.”

Northwestern State started its season-long, seven-game road swing by dropping four straight at Oregon this past weekend as the only Southland team that did not play a conference series. One key for Barbier’s team is the ability to refocus quickly for its conference-opening series, which takes place in the same stadium where the Demons opened Southland play in 2022.

This weekend’s series marks the first time in more than 30 years since NSU has opened Southland play against the same opponent in the same venue in consecutive years.

“It’s the nature of our game, and it’s going to happen when you play really good teams,” Barbier said. “You’re going to have weekends like that. Hopefully, we learned something from that. We saw some things they do that maybe we need to incorporate or do better at. You can take it and sit in it, or you can use it as a learning opportunity. I think our team will do the latter.”

The Privateers dropped two of three games at Lamar in their conference-opening series a week ago but rebounded with a 16-4 thumping of Tulane on Wednesday.

The Demons will turn to their typical weekend rotation against the Privateers, sending senior left-hander Cal Carver (3-2, 2.34) and junior right-handers Alex Makarewich (2-1, 4.03) and Drayton Brown (1-4, 5.79) to the mound against a New Orleans team that is hitting .281 despite losing a pair of first-team all-conference performers in Amani Larry and Pearce Howard.

While the trio did not pitch as long as usual at Oregon – a decision made by design – it allowed Barbier to continue to develop the NSU bullpen.

“It takes everybody,” Barbier said. “Chase (Prestwich) has been our mid-week starter, and we’ve extended him. Now we’re going to need him in some of these conference weekends in some capacity. You’ll need some of those other guys to be good for you in those mid-week games. It was good to see other guys hit the mound. We kept the pitch counts low. Yeah, we got hit around a little bit, but we wanted to keep pitch counts down so our guys had two weeks of lower pitch counts as they head into conference.”

Series Probables

Friday: Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (3-2, 2.34) at New Orleans LHP Tyler LeBlanc (2-2, 3.27)

Saturday: Northwestern State RHP Alex Makarewich (2-1, 4.03) at New Orleans LHP Brandon Mitchell (4-2, 4.41)

Sunday: Northwestern State RHP Drayton Brown (1-4, 5.79) at New Orleans TBA