Softball: Northwestern State prepared to host Houston Baptist in a three-game home series


Senior Natalie Landry will lead NSU into a three-game home series with Houston Baptist starting Friday.

Reigning Southland Conference champion Northwestern State has a little bit of a hole to dig itself out of when Houston Baptist visits for a three-game series starting Friday.

NSU (16-8, 1-2 SLC) lost its first series since early April of 2014 by dropping two of three at Incarnate Word (10-14, 2-1), snapping a streak of 13 straight SLC series wins.

Friday’s doubleheader starts at 3 p.m. with Saturday’s finale beginning at 1 p.m. at Lady Demon Diamond.

But NSU coach Donald Pickett said the team has returned to its normal routine and regained focus, even despite a 4-3 loss Wednesday to Louisiana Tech.

“We got better every day this week, and we hope that continues so we can get back to playing to our potential,” Pickett said. “HBU is looking for a series win on the road, and we’ve got to be disciplined in what we do to have our best shot at winning.

“We’ve got to relax and just play – not put too much pressure on ourselves.”

Both NSU and HBU (9-10, 1-2) sit in a three-way tie for eighth after the first weekend of league play.

HBU has lost seven of its last eight contests, including two against Lamar at Husky Field. Six of HBU’s wins have come against the SWAC.

Three of HBU’s run-rule losses have come against teams that NSU has played – the Lady Demons beat Texas State, lost by one run to Louisiana Tech and by four runs to North Texas.

The Huskies are led by Savana Guidry (.389 batting average) and Shay Orsak (.357) while Laci Belovsky (6-5, 3.64 ERA) is the best in the circle.

“They put pressure on you, and they want you to make mistakes,” Pickett said. “They are a sound team, and they’ve always been competitive since they’ve joined the league.

“We’re struggling a little bit, and we’ve got to make sure we’re doing everything we can in all three phases.”

NSU won all three meetings against HBU by a combined score of 35-9, and the Lady Demons are 10-1 all-time against the Huskies.

NSU is attempting to find offensive consistency, and Pickett moved No. 9-hole Sidney Salmans back to the leadoff spot after Salmans collected nine hits in the last eight games.

Kaytie Proctor, in the No. 8 hole, has also produced of late, getting six hits and three RBIs in the last four games.

“Getting Kellye Kincannon (hits in 16 of last 18 games) back into the No. 3 hole benefits us, and we’re still trying to figure out what works best,” Pickett said. “We have a lot of good hitters, and we’ve been producing runs, but it’s been one here and one there. We haven’t had enough a big innings.

“Sidney has done well, and we want to get her on base in front of our big bats.”

Kincannon leads all Lady Demons with a .416 batting average, 19 runs scored, six home runs and 21 RBIs.