NSU-Tech battle today in tennis (Natchitoches), baseball (Ruston)

DUGOUT BONDS: Northwestern baseball coach Bobby Barbier has deep ties with Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs and associate head coach Mitch Gaspard, both former Demon skippers.

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The Louisiana Tech-Northwestern State rivalry may not have the luster it did years ago, but weather permitting, it should be fun to watch in both Natchitoches and Ruston today.

NSU is hosting a high-caliber women’s tennis match between the schools at 2:30., while up in Ruston, the baseball teams collide at 6 o’clock for the first time since 2019.

On the courts at the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex alongside Chaplin’s Lake, two of the state’s top three women’s teams (along with LSU) will meet for the ninth time in 10 years. Host Northwestern (13-4) just locked up its first outright Southland Conference title since 2010, while Louisiana Tech is staging one of the best seasons in program history with a 17-4 overall mark.

The Techsters won last year, 5-2 in Ruston, but haven’t prevailed at NSU since 2015.

For the first time in nearly three years, the Demons and Bulldogs will tangle on the diamond this evening. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams have not squared off since April 30, 2019.

The meeting will be the first between the teams in Ruston since March 5, 2019 – a span of 1,134 days.

Since 1990, when Bossier City native Jim Wells began building a powerful program at NSU, the Demons own a 36-27 lead in the longstanding rivalry. Northwestern won both 2019 matchups, 8-4 at J.C. Love Field in Ruston and 3-1 at Brown-Stroud Field in Natchitoches. Overall in a series dating back many decades, the Bulldogs have an 81-52 advantage.

The baseball ties deepened considerably six years ago when Louisiana Tech hired head coach Lane Burroughs from Northwestern, which in turn immediately promoted former player Bobby Barbier to head coach. He had spent the previous two years as pitching coach for Burroughs’ Demons, following a longer stint on the Alabama staff of his college coach at NSU, Mitch Gaspard – now associate head coach for Burroughs in Ruston.

“I played for Mitch and worked for Lane, so there’s a lot between us,” Barbier said.

The Demons (15-16 after dropping three straight at incarnate Word) play their fifth straight road game. Tech (23-10) finishes a six-game homestand.

The Bulldogs won four of five games this past week, including a sweep of Conference USA rival Rice in Ruston. The Demons’ first visit to the rebuilt J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park comes 10 months after the Bulldogs hosted the first NCAA Regional in north Louisiana history.

“They’ve got a really good team,” Barbier said. “They’ve put together another good season after last year’s historic season.”

Northwestern State will start right-hander Andrew Cossio (1-0, 9.00) while the Bulldogs will counter with right-hander Greg Martinez (2-1, 5.67).

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State