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Corvallis Regional Preview: Northwestern State

A familiar foe potentially awaits in Oregon, one LSU should hope to avoid.

Erik Williams/Southland Athletics

LSU holds a commanding 57-11 record against Northwestern State and has won 19 of the past 20 meetings between the two in-state schools. Paul Mainieri has a 12-1 record against the Demons with the only loss coming in 2011, the last time LSU missed the postseason field completely. The Tigers beat the other purple Louisiana school 9-5 on the 15th to close out the home schedule and is the their most recent non-SEC opponent.

Despite the one-sided dominance, if LSU plays Northwestern State then that can only be a bad sign.

Northwestern rolls into Corvallis fresh off their Southland Tournament championship as a four-seed. That means they draw Oregon State game one which is likely a loss. A one seed being expected to beat a four seed isn’t exactly shocking information, I know. But if LSU has to play Northwestern State then that means that LSU pitching Matthew Beck and bullpen arms against San Diego State didn’t pan out, which is no bueno.

The Season

Northwestern was just kind of...there all season. The Demons finished 37-22 on the season and 18-12 in conference. The Demons rode four straight Southland series wins into Sugar Land for the conference tournament, where they coasted to the conference title with four wins. In their first three games of the tournament the Demons allowed a combined four runs. They didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard themselves (only 10 runs among the three games) but they did enough to get into the championship game where they knocked off New Orleans 7-5 to clinch their first conference championship in program history and book their fourth trip to the big dance.

Those four wins (against McNeese, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls and UNO) gave Northwestern a 19-spot RPI boost, pulling them all the way up to 106. NSU has a pretty bad SOS even by mid-major standards, 209 overall and 221 in non-conference play. The Demons are 0-3 against RPI Top 50, where all of the other three members of the Corvallis Regional reside. LSU is one of those losses, and Texas A&M makes up the other two.

The boys from Natchitoches are 19-9 when playing in the friendly confines of Brown-Stroud Field, but 14-13 when battling on the road. The four wins in Sugar Land for the Southland Tournament are Northwestern’s only four neutral site games. So depending on how you look at the regional, the numbers are either for the Demons or say it will virtually be a toss-up.

Northwestern have outscored opponents 354-238 on the season, although those numbers are inflated by 21-0 and 34-0 dismantlings of Mississippi Valley State. With those games, the Demons are averaging six runs a game, throwing them out drops it to a hair above five. And that’s about right, looking down the schedule yields a pretty mixed bag of results. This is small sample size city, but against LSU and A&M, NSU only scored 12 runs and allowed 22.

The Players

David Fry is more or less the main dude for Northwestern State. He leads the team in all three slashes, posting a line of .336/.626/.444 and leading the team in hits (79), doubles (26), home runs (12), RBI (55) and walks (37). As he goes, so do the Demons.

Kelsey Richard supplements him with some power, second on the team in dingers with 7, but that’s a very unpolished number. Richard has a line of .213/.413/.328. If that suggests he has a lot of swing and miss potential, that’s because he does. Richard been retired without contact 61 times on the season.

Kwan Adkins is the only other NSU batting over 300, swinging .323/.394/.400 with 73 hits and eight extra base hits in addition to two homers and 24 RBI. Even still, Adkins can easily be struck out, with 58 Ks to his name.

Caleb Ricca can become the real problem for the other teams in the field. Ricca is batting a modest .264/.344/.346, but he is about the only Demon who can swipe, with 20 steals on 22 attempts this season. You’d expect 20 stolen bases to show in a high or relatively high number of runs scored, but the rest of the team haven’t really been able to make good on his thievery as he has only crossed home 34 times. If Northwestern wants to do the impossible, they need him to work overtime at the run producing factory and they need to make sure his coworkers pull their weight.

The Pitchers

Jerry Maddux is the staff ace, posting a 2.03 ERA in 80 innings of with 18 earned runs of 51 hits allowed. Opponents are batting a paltry .184 against him and he holds a K/BB of 1.88 (62/33).

To demonstrate my point that NSU is a middle of the road mid-major, the next two starters in rotation have an eerily close K/BB considering they are the number two and three starters. Ridge Heisler and Nathan Jones have a K/BB of 3.42 (72/21) and 3.09 (71/23), with Heisler’s being the better one but still in the same ballpark. Heisler has an ERA of 3.01 in 89.2 IP with 30 ER off 88 hits. Opponents are batting above the “College Mendoza Line” of .250 against him with a .263 average.

Jones has eaten the most innings of the three starters with 97 innings logged on the mound, and the numbers reflect that. He has a 3.71 ERA with 40 ER off of 101 hits, 20 of which were extra base hits. Opponents are batting .271 against Jones.

Robert Burke would be a fourth starter if needed, but going to him won’t be too encouraging for the Demons: he has a 4.94 ERA in 31 IP off of sevens starts, allowing 17 ER off 41 hits and pose a sub-one K/BB of .95 (18/19) and allowing hitters to his .320 against.

End of the game closing duties are delegated to two players, Dan Hlad and Jose Vasquez. Hlad has pitched more innings than Vasquez, leading us to believe that Hlad is the first guy out of the pen when a must-win is in jeopardy. Hlad has a 2.73 ERA in 56 IP, allowing 17 ER on 45 hits and a K/BB of 2.71 (50/23) and a BAA of .232.

Hlad has three saves, and Vasquez has him beat by one. Vasquez is more of a true closer, with a 2.16 ERA in 37.1 IP where he allowed just nine runs on 30 hits and only four extra base hits, holding batters to a .222 average and a 2.67 K/BB (32/12).