Demons begin another busy week with back-to-back road games

Josh Banes will start his first game of the season against Grambling on Tuesday. Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services

GRAMBLING – The Northwestern State baseball team will see a couple of familiar faces and one unfamiliar ballpark as it continues its busiest stretch of the 2022 season.

The Demons start their second straight five-game week Tuesday night with a trip to Grambling for a 6 o’clock first pitch before continuing the mid-week road trip by visiting LSU-Alexandria for the first time.

As Northwestern State (19-20) begins the second half of a stretch of 10 games in 13 days, sixth-year head coach Bobby Barbier has his eye on seeing something from his team.

“Competitive fire – that’s what I’m looking for this week,” he said. “Not necessarily results, but come in with some fire and ready to play.”

Northwestern State already owns wins against each team it faces the next two days, defeating Grambling 6-3 on March 23 and picking up an 11-4 win against LSU-A on April 19.

Those results aren’t on Barbier’s mind either.

“They’re both good teams,” he said. “Grambling has as good a top of the lineup, one through five or six, as we have in our league. We have to go in and play well. Same thing for LSU-A.”

The Tigers (18-21) enter Tuesday’s game with plenty of confidence after sweeping Alcorn for the second time this season. Included in that sweep was a perfect game from right-hander Shemar Page in the series opener.

While Barbier praised Grambling’s offensive prowess, the first meeting of the season between the teams was determined by the bullpens.

Highlighted by a leadoff home run to dead center by Jeffrey Elkins, the Demons put up a four-run sixth inning to pull ahead for good against Grambling. A similar situation played out in the first meeting with LSU-A as Elkins delivered a tie-breaking, three-run home run that sparked a seven-run eighth inning rally.

The challenge of facing the same team for the second time is compounded by doing so on the road.

“We talk about it all the time – to win on the road, you have to go in and get it,” Barbier said. “Nothing is handed to you on the road. You have to go in and compete really, really hard. You have to take it. You can’t expect to have anything handed to you on the road.”

Tuesday marks the first time the Demons will travel to Grambling while Wednesday marks the Demons’ debut at Generals Field in Alexandria.

It will be the first time since Northwestern State and LSU-A will meet more than once in the same season since the teams first met in 2014.

“It’s important for us to do some things like that,” Barbier said. “(LSU-A head coach) Kody (Gautreaux) has done a really good job as the interim down there. When we made the schedule, Skunk (Steven Adams) was coaching down there. He and I played together (at NSU), and he asked us to come. It’s good for our team to get out in a different environment and atmosphere.”

The Demons will start a pair of right-handers in the two games. Josh Banes (0-0, 3.97) will make his first start of the season against Grambling while Ethan Francis (0-1, 5.40) will start against LSU-A for the second time this season.