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Demons return home to host Lamar in SLC set

Photo: Johnathan Harmon and the Demons open a four-game series with Lamar on Friday night.
Photo: Johnathan Harmon and the Demons open a four-game series with Lamar on Friday night.(Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 3:28 PM CDT
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NATCHITOCHES, La (NSU) – As the Northwestern State baseball team moves closer to the halfway point of the Southland Conference season, one thing is clear – there is little clarity in the league standings.

The Demons host Lamar in a four-game conference series, beginning Friday night at 6:30 at Brown-Stroud Field. Like the previous three and remaining six conference series, this weekend’s slate has the ability to change things in a hurry for both teams. In addition to Friday’s game, there is a 2 p.m. Saturday doubleheader and a 1 p.m. Sunday single game set for the weekend.

“These four games can swing things quickly,” fifth-year head coach Bobby Barbier said. “You can pick up wins or drop some games really quickly. The message has to be to be ready, to play every game, every inning, every weekend. We do that and we’ll win our fair share of games.”

The Demons (13-13, 7-5) picked up three wins – their first Southland Conference series win of the season – this past weekend at Abilene Christian. In doing so, moved from a seventh-place tie to holding sole possession of fourth place entering this weekend’s series.

Similarly, Lamar (13-9, 5-7) took three of four from Houston Baptist a week ago after being swept by Southeastern Louisiana the previous weekend.

The Cardinals come to Brown-Stroud Field as one of the most balanced teams in the Southland, posting the top team ERA (2.81) in the league and the No. 2 batting average (.283).

“They’re going to run out some pretty good starters against us, and they have a couple of guys at the back end who do a really good job,” Barbier said. “Every team we face in our league this year, we’re pretty much the same.”

The Demons have pitched to the fourth-best team ERA in the league (3.79) and have struck out the fourth-most hitters (229). Forty-nine of those strikeouts belong to sophomore right-hander Levi David (2-2, 2.97), who will start Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader.

David is the reigning Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week, earning his second such award this season after striking out 12 Abilene Christian hitters across seven shutout innings. David will follow right-hander Johnathan Harmon (1-2, 3.47) and left-hander Cal Carver (3-2, 2.33) in the weekend rotation for the Demons.

“Iron sharpens iron,” Barbier said of the three starters who all have taken the ball in the Demons’ first three conference series. “When the guys in front of you have success, I hope it pushes you even more. It has shown with Levi. He has great stuff and has worked his tail off to compete in the strike zone.

“We had a lot of guys hit the mound against a pretty good lineup and threw the ball well. We’ve continued to get better. I’ve been a part of a couple of different kinds of pitching staffs – the kind that limps into the back end of the season and the kind who gets better, takes care of their work in the weight room, their arm care and their throwing and gets better and stronger at the end. Hopefully, this staff is the one that keeps improving and gets better.”

The NSU offense took steps toward improvement during the weekend set in Abilene, capping the weekend with a season-high 14 hits in a 6-5, 10-inning win in which every Demon starter had a hit.

“We kept the strikeouts down with the exception of the first game where their guy was really good and we played 12 innings,” Barbier said. “The more balls you put in play, the better your chances are. We saw guys like Larson Fontenot, who hasn’t been in the lineup that much, come through. Cole Horton gets on base. He takes his (hit by pitches) and his walks. If you get that one through nine and you make those pitchers pay when you’re in good counts, you’ll see the batting average and your runs scored go up.”

Series Probables

Friday: Lamar RHP Trevin Michael (2-1, 2.81) at Northwestern State RHP Johnathan Harmon (1-2, 3.47)

Saturday: Lamar RHP Josh Ekness (0-1, 5.06) and RHP Zach Bravo (2-1, 3.16) at Northwestern State LHP Cal Carver (3-2, 2.33) and RHP Levi David (2-2, 2.97)

Sunday: Lamar LHP Dylan Johnson (1-1, 1.83) at Northwestern State TBA

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