BATON ROUGE – It has become something of a tradition for the Northwestern State baseball team to play its final mid-week game of the season at Alex Box Stadium.
For the third straight season, that holds true as the Demons head to Baton Rouge to face No. 2-ranked LSU at 6:30 p.m.
“I don’t know that the time of year you play them matters as much as much your ball club going to play that game and enjoying the experience and learning from it,” associate head coach Chris Bertrand said. “Ultimately, that’s what we’re after. Whether you play those guys in February or you play them in May, the idea is you get a litmus test and you get to teach some life lessons and baseball lessons to your ball club at, this time, one of the most opportune times as we prepare to go on a run and finish the Southland schedule and build toward the tournament.”
Both Northwestern State (25-20) and the Tigers (37-10) enter the annual matchup coming off series losses this past weekend with the Demons dropping two at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi while LSU did the same at Auburn.
While the results were the same, the results were flipped. LSU won its series opener Friday night while the Demons salvaged a win in Sunday’s series finale against the Islanders.
The Demons did it in a way LSU has become familiar with – bludgeoning its opponent with a barrage of base hits.
Northwestern State rapped out a season-high 20 hits – including a career-high-tying four hits for freshman Michael Dattalo, who was named the Southland Conference Hitter of the Week on Monday.
It marked the first time since March 15, 2022, for the Demons to reach the 20-hit plateau while Dattalo pushed his season hit total to 70 – the most for a Demon since current Cleveland Guardian David Fry had 80 and San Francisco Giants draftee Kwan Adkins had 77 in the 2018 season.
“Mike’s been great since he’s been here,” Barbier said. “He’s been fantastic. Whenever we need a hit, he’s there.”
The Demon pitching staff will face an LSU offense that leads the Southeastern Conference in batting average (.313), on-base percentage (.441) and runs (451) while sharing the conference lead in doubles (92).
NSU will start its typical mid-week starter, sophomore right-hander Chase Prestwich (4-3, 5.51).
He will be backed by an offense that will have plenty of momentum and confidence following its 17-8 win to cap the series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“Any time you can finish a series – no matter who or where you’re playing – in the manner in which we finished it, it does give you confidence and momentum,” Bertrand said. “The biggest thing we take away from the weekend is not just Sunday, but the fact, for us, we have to play clean, consistent baseball. We want to clean up some of the mistakes we’ve made – whether that’s offense, defense or pitch execution. We’ve got to play a little cleaner and more consistently.
“For us to be the best team we can, we have to play more complementary where all three phases are going at the same time, and there’s not as much of a deficiency in one area or another.”