The Northwestern State softball team fared well in its first tournament test of the season, winning four games in Texas State’s CenturyLink Classic that included victories over the host Bobcats, Oklahoma State, DePaul and Abilene Christian.
Now the Lady Demons (6-1) will face an even more difficult task when they play five games at Baylor’s Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas.
NSU will play scheduled games against North Texas (Friday, 10 a.m.), No. 21 Baylor (Friday, 3 p.m.) and Liberty (Saturday, 11 a.m.) before two additional contests based on bracket play.
“It’s going to be a challenge again,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “What we want to do is play quality opponents, and all three of these teams have great programs and do great jobs.
“We’ll have to go out and make plays. We have to make sure we have quality at-bats, get good pitching and play well in all three phases to be successful.”
NSU’s 6-1 start ties its best since 1991. NSU’s lone loss came in 1-0 fashion to DePaul before the Lady Demons swept Alcorn State with a pair of five-inning wins (8-0 and 18-3) on Wednesday.
Sophomore pitcher Micaela Bouvier woke up her bat to hit three home runs and tally eight RBIs in the sweep. Bouvier and senior Natalie Landry are tied for the Southland Conference lead with three home runs (sixth nationally).
NSU’s 12 home runs as a team are the second-highest in the nation.
Bouvier and junior Kellye Kincannon are tied for the SLC lead with nine home runs each (No. 20 nationally) to spearhead an NSU offense.
“We have to build off this past weekend,” said Bouvier, whose 3-0 pitching record is also tied for second-best nationally. “Obviously we have a lot of confidence in ourselves right now, and it’s at an all-time high because of what we did this past weekend.
“We’ve got to take it into this weekend … keep the game slow and put the hard work we’ve done onto the field for the games.”
Kincannon is tied for the SLC lead with 10 hits while junior Brittney Jones leads NSU with a .500 batting average.
Junior pitcher Shelby Sells (1-1) will be NSU’s other primary option in the circle after sophomore Mikayla Brown suffered a knee injury in the opening weekend. Brown’s injury is still being evaluated, but the reigning Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year will be out indefinitely.
Sophomore catcher Katie Proctor is getting her second taste of tough non-conference tournament action as NSU is trying to boost its resume´ for NCAA Tournament at-large consideration.
“We saw last weekend that we can get the ball out of the park all the time and make decent contact,” Proctor said. “Our chemistry is even better this season, and last year it was great.
“We’re building every single weekend, and we’re becoming even more confident.”
NSU is no stranger to the Getterman Classic, which is in its 15th season. The Lady Demons are making their fourth appearance (last in 2009) and have a 4-12 overall record in the event.
Baylor (2-1) will continue its Southland Conference diet after winning two one-run games against McNeese State (5-4 and 6-5). The Cowgirls took the middle game 3-1 over the No. 21 Lady Bears. Baylor reached the NCAA Regional finals in 2015 (41-17 record).
NSU lost twice against Baylor – 11-0 and 9-2 – in 2015.
NSU is 1-23 all-time against Baylor (won in 2001), and the Lady Demons are a combined 0-38 against ranked teams since the NSU record book begin including rankings in its record section (starting in 2005).
North Texas (2-3) scored wins against Nebraska-Omaha and Southern Utah in a difficult tournament that included No. 13 Arizona and Purdue. The Mean Green finished 2015 with a 19-31 mark but has beaten NSU the last five meetings (the last in 2012).
Liberty (2-4) lost to No. 5 Alabama and No. 17 Central Florida as well as regional power Chattanooga this season. The Lady Flames went 29-30 this past season.
“You want to prepare yourself for what you see in conference play,” Pickett said. “You play the best teams you can, and you want to see everything that can be thrown at you.
“These teams have a lot of talent with power, speed and pitching. It will be a challenge, but it’ll make the kids more confident.”