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GAMETHREAD: Baseball @ Northwestern St., 6pm, ESPN+

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Despite winning the series against Cal, LSU (11-4) did not have a great final weekend of OOC play, highlighted (or lowlighted) by a pitching staff that is trying to find anything that works. Among those struggles were FR RHP Landon Marceaux (1-1, 7.90 ERA, 13.2 IP, 9 BB, 11 SO) who only pitched a single inning in relief in the Friday game. Marceaux is getting the ball tonight, with a shot to regain a role on the weekends. Also of note tonight, Brandt Broussard isn’t making the trip because he sprained his ankle in the dogpile after the walk-off win on Friday. Yeah, that’s kinda how ridiculous this season is going so far.

Northwestern St. (7-6, 1-2 Southland) has had an up and down season so far, dropping an opening weekend series at Houston, getting in-state wins over SU, ULM, and La Tech, then dropping their conference opening weekend to Abilene Christian. Tonight LSU will face SR RHP Cullen McDonald (1-0, 0.69 ERA, 13.0 IP, 0 BB, 7 SO) who should be a significant challenge. McDonald has started both of NSU’s midweek games against in-state foes and won both games, going at least 6 IP in his outings. On paper he’s the real deal and should be a challenge for LSU’s offense. At the plate, NSU is currently led by JR SS Caleb Ricca. From NSU’s release:

After a 5-for-10 weekend that included home runs in each of the final two games at Abilene Christian, Ricca is hitting .392 and ranks in the top three in the Southland Conference in doubles (7, second), hits per game (1.54, third), slugging percentage (.647, third), stolen bases (7, third) and batting average (third). His 0.54 doubles per game lead the conference.

Demons coach Bobby Barbier is relatively young, having graduated from Northwestern St. in 2006. He was an assistant at NSU that followed Mitch Gaspard to the Alabama job, then came back to assist and later take over the head coaching job in Natchitoches. Per Southeastern Conference bylaws, he is eligible to take over any SEC West baseball program next year should an opening occur.

Tonight is one of LSU baseball’s rare in-state road trips, part of Mainieri’s often stated goal of bringing LSU to visit every in-state team. Brown-Stroud Field is a snug grandstand that seats 1,200 with berms down both foul lines. Their field is an odd mix of artificial turf infield with a grass outfield, which should make for a fast track for ground balls. The four highest attended games in NSU history are all against LSU, all of them losses except for their biggest game ever, when they somehow packed in 4,214 to see the Demons beat LSU back in 2001.

Tonight’s game is on ESPN+, ESPN’s for-pay additional service that is not included with anyone’s cable package. You will need to sign up for at least a free trial to view tonight’s game. For you cord-cutting fans out there, the good news is that you can use ESPN+ without even having cable, but for most of us this is just ESPN moving games that used to be “free” on ESPN3 behind a paywall. Such is our new digital life.

Also, I’m not 100% sure this wont be blacked-out in Louisiana. I don’t think it will, but then an LSU @ Northwestern St. softball game a few weekends ago was blacked out, so I can’t say for sure either way.