Opening weekend brings with it a certain amount of energy.
For the Northwestern State baseball team, they will try to re-create the feeling that permeated Brown-Stroud Field in a three-game series against Wichita State this past weekend when it hosts former Southland Conference rival ULM at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“They’re going to come ready to play,” fourth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said of the Warhawks, who took two of three games from Southeast Missouri State on opening weekend. “We have a team that is learning as it goes, but you need to find that same energy for a mid-week game, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t. We don’t talk about series, because you have to win that game that day. If you really have that mentality, this game shouldn’t be any different.”
Both the Demons and Warhawks started the season at 2-1 because of their pitching.
For a Northwestern State team that returned the fewest pitching starts in the nation (one), the newcomers on the mound were matched by the new faces in the lineup, something that impressed Barbier.
“The important thing was how some guys took the mound and seeing some guy get their first D-I starts as position players,” he said. “They competed their tails off and attacked. There were a thousand things that could have happened this weekend, but I was just excited to see guys competing for the first time as a team.”
One of the new faces who made his Northwestern State debut this weekend was freshman catcher Cole Horton, who delivered a key pinch-hit single in the Demons’ three-run seventh inning Sunday that propelled them to a 3-2 win against Wichita State.
Horton’s single off a leaping Derek Shaver at shortstop set up Kendall Foster’s game-tying, bases-loaded walk and came after Horton watched the first 24-plus innings from the NSU dugout.
“I like to talk about guys who make us put them in,” Barbier said. “To be completely honest, I thought about redshirting Cole. We have some really good catchers, which is the position he plays, but his batting practice and his at-bats in our early scrimmages have been really good and forced our hand.
“I talked to (assistant) coach (Chris) Bertrand, and he pushed me over the edge to give him an at-bat. He came in a did a really good job. He’s our type of guy. He’s tough. He works hard. He’s got a good swing, a good setup, and he’ll be a really good player for us.”
Whether Horton finds himself in the lineup against the Warhawks, he will be able to look across the field and see a familiar face – his brother, Cameron, who is a senior with the Warhawks.
The Hortons’ presence in the game adds to the list of bragging rights between the former conference and longtime state rivals.
“They’re completely different,” Barbier said of the brothers. “His brother’s about 6-4, 220 pounds. Cole’s built like a linebacker. Their dad, Tim, is a good friend of mine. We’ve gotten to know the family. It will be neat tomorrow night.”
Streaming audio and video of the game will be available through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app and atwww.NSUDemons.com/watch.
ULM LHP Tyler Lien (Season Debut) at Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (0-0, 9.00)