The most recent baseball meeting between Northwestern State and New Orleans produced one of the most memorable moments in Demons program history.
Northwestern State’s 7-5 victory against the Privateers in the 2018 Southland Conference Tournament championship game gave NSU its first title in the event and broke a 13-year NCAA Regional drought.
Just as the teams found themselves fighting for the same goal in late May in Sugar Land, Texas, the two enter Friday’s 6:30 p.m. Southland Conference series opener at Brown-Stroud Field once again in similar situations.
Northwestern State (8-6, 1-2) and New Orleans (10-5, 1-2) each rebounded from dropping its opening series of conference play to post impressive victories Tuesday night, sending them into the series opener with some momentum. Following Friday’s opener, the series continues with a 2 p.m. Saturday matchup and Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale.
The Demons notched their first victory against LSU since 2011, topping the No. 11/13 Tigers 3-1 behind a combined five-hitter by pitchers Cullen McDonald and Tyler Pigott.
That same night New Orleans gave head coach Blake Dean his 100th career win, defeating UL Lafayette, 10-3.
“We’ve got to understand, just like we can overcome bad performances, we can overcome really good performances, too, to perform well the next game,” third-year head coach Bobby Barbier said after Tuesday night’s win.
The Demons opened Southland Conference by dropping two of three games at Abilene Christian this past weekend while the Privateers suffered the same fate at Nicholls.
“They’ve got quite a few new guys,” Barbier said. “They’ve had a few junior college guys come in and play well for them.”
This weekend’s series matches the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the Southland Conference in team ERA. New Orleans stands third with a 3.55 mark while the Demons are a spot behind at 3.83.
The Demons have pitched even better at home, posting a 2.86 ERA inside Brown-Stroud Field’s friendly confines. The Demons have allowed one or fewer runs in three of their seven home games, going 5-2 at home in the early season.
“It’s going to be like every weekend in our league,” Barbier said. “They play well. You play well. They’ll be good ballgames. We need good starts. We had two out of three (at Abilene Christian). We need to come together offensively and put together 27 innings, or however many innings it takes over the course of a weekend.”
While the Demons’ staff has been stellar throughout the majority of the first 14 games, Northwestern State continues to search for offensive consistency.
“We’re trying to figure out the right sauce – trying to figure out the right lineup to play,” Barbier said. “You want those guys to make it tough on you when you stick them in the lineup. It makes it tougher as a coach to make out the lineup, but that’s what happens when you have competition. It makes that guy who’s usually an everyday player but not in the lineup, it makes his BP have a little higher level of competition.
“We haven’t had a lot of pouting going on. They understand we play for the Demons. The Demons are what’s important. The lineup is made for the Demons to win. We’ll take that competition and be better for it.”
Friday: New Orleans LHP Brandon Mitchell (1-0, 5.91) at Northwestern State LHP Ridge Heisler (1-1, 1.75)
Saturday: New Orleans RHP Chris Turpin (2-0, 1.90) at Northwestern State RHP Jerry Maddox (0-0 ,7.79)
Sunday: New Orleans TBA at Northwestern State RHP Nathan Jones (1-1, 1.80)
Friday: Free food for all Northwestern State students
Saturday: St. Patrick’s Day-themed giveaways throughout the game
Sunday: Bark at the Park, sponsored by PetStar of Natchitoches