With eye on weather, Demons open SLC home slate against Lamar

Controlling the controllables has become an en vogue phrase for coaches across all sports.

The Northwestern State baseball team will put that axiom to the test this weekend when it opens its Southland Conference home schedule Thursday against Lamar. First pitch of the series opener has been moved up to 2 p.m. because of an extended band of rain that is expected to sit on the region for most of the weekend.

While the series opener has been moved, the remaining two games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. All three games will air on ESPN+.

“We can’t really control much of that,” seventh-year head coach Bobby Barbier said of the impending weather. “We’ll get together and make decisions on game times and when we’ll play them. We have to get them in by Saturday because of Easter. It’s a matter of staying prepared when it’s time to play. That’s nothing more than what we’ve done. We’ve just had an exact time in the past. Hopefully, we can get a few breaks in the first few days where we won’t have too much water dump on the field. I think we’ll be ready to play when it’s time.”

Both the Demons (16-12, 2-1) and the Cardinals (17-11, 3-3) are playing their first Thursday-Saturday series of the season with both coming off Tuesday games that went in opposite directions.

Lamar fell to UT Arlington in the Metroplex, 5-2, in a game that took 2:10 to complete.

Northwestern State’s Tuesday took a little longer as the Demons edged longtime rival Louisiana Tech, 8-7, in 13 innings. It was Northwestern State’s first extra-inning contest of the season and the longest game for the Demons since a 15-inning game against Stephen F. Austin in Game 2 of an April 8, 2018, doubleheader.

Northwestern State used eight pitchers in the 13-inning win – none of whom threw more than 50 pitches. That included a 41-pitch, three-inning effort from freshman right-hander Tyler Bryan, who covered the 10th, 11th and 12th innings in scoreless fashion.

“When you staff a game like we did last night, you have it built out for nine innings, but necessity – having to use some of those other guys – was great for us,” Barbier said. “When you have to use them, they got out there and perform like they did like Tyler Bryan. (Corbin) Talley, at the end, even though he gave up a run, that’s the best he’s looked on the mound in a competitive environment.”

Should the weather cooperate, Northwestern State will send what has become its normal weekend rotation – left-hander Cal Carver (4-2, 3.24) and right-handers Alex Makarewich (2-2, 5.46) and Drayton Brown (2-4, 5.26) – out against the Cardinals.

Carver initially will be tasked with slowing a Lamar offense that features the Southland’s leader in home runs (10) and slugging percentage (.688) in Ryan Snell. Snell also ranks fourth in the league in doubles (10).

He also will have some momentum on his side after the Demons’ two-run, 13th-inning rally that lifted NSU to its first win against Louisiana Tech since 2019. It was NSU’s second straight win in a one-run contest, improving the Demons to 3-4 in one-run games this season.

“What happens first – do you win those games and get confident in them, or do you get confident in them and then go and win them?” Barbier asked. “You never really know. We lost a bunch of tight games early in the season. Hopefully, we can use that, and they turn for us here in the back end.”

Series Probables

Thursday: Lamar RHP Jacob Ellis (2-0, 3.32) at Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (4-2, 3.24)

Friday: Lamar LHP Hunter Hesseltine (1-1, 5.87) at Northwestern State RHP Alex Makarewich (2-2, 5.46)

Saturday: Lamar RHP Brooks Caple (2-0, 2.19) at Northwestern State RHP Drayton Brown (2-4, 5.26)