By: Matt Vines
After dropping the first game at home to Houston Baptist on Friday, the Northwestern State softball team faced a gutcheck.
The Lady Demons responded with a 5-0 win on the backend of the doubleheader thanks to two home runs by senior Natalie Landry and a complete-game shutout by sophomore pitcher Micaela Bouvier.
Bouvier appeared to be in line for a win in the first game as well before HBU (10-11, 2-3 Southland Conference) had a torrential offensive outpour in a nine-run fifth inning in the 10-6 win.
“We had to have it (the second game). We shot ourselves in the foot in the first game,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “The pitchers didn’t have a good outing at all, but Bouvier responded with a shutout in which she didn’t give up a walk.
“We’ve got to continue to understand how big each pitch and each play is because we’ve been having lapses in our focus. We’ve got to be consistent in our approaches, and that will be key Saturday.”
NSU (17-9, 2-3 SLC) will see HBU in the series finale Saturday at 1 p.m. as the winner will claw its way back to .500 in the league.
NSU 5, Houston Baptist 0
The first of Natalie Landry’s two home runs gave NSU all the spark it needed to get the second-game win.
Landry launched a missile over the left-center field wall to put NSU up 2-0 in the second inning, and sophomore Micaela Bouvier took over from there with her third shutout of the season.
Landry finished the second game batting 2-for-2 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Landry’s two home runs push her season total to five.
“It was critical to take the second game because if we didn’t, we lose the series and we’re trying to take one from them on Saturday,” Landry said. “I struggled early in the season, and somebody came up to me and said they didn’t think I was having fun.
“I knew my swing was there, I just had to have fun. That’s when I played relaxed, and that’s when my teammates can count on me the most.”
Since Landry was benched for two games at the Mississippi State tournament (March 4-5), she’s been on a tear at the plate. Landry has had 15 hits, 12 RBIs and eight runs scored in her last eight games.
“She’s really stepped up for us. That two-run home run was huge for us, and it swung the momentum back our way,” Pickett said. “I’m really proud of Natalie responding in the way she did and help us get back on the right track.”
Bouvier (10-4) had a similar effect in the circle, working around six HBU hits to keep the Huskies off the board.
She had four strikeouts and appeared to command her pitches much better in the second game.
“You have to realize that (the first game) is the past, and you just have to move on and realize the future is what determines things,” Bouvier said. “I had to flush that first game and just come out and do better for my team.
“(Landry’s first home run) was huge for us, and it gave us a push in the second game.”
Landry hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for a 3-0 lead. Junior Kellye Kincannon and Bouvier followed with RBIs in the fifth and sixth innings to provide insurance.
Kincannon finished 2-for-3 in the second game.
HBU pitcher Shannon O’Connor (2-5) took the loss, allowing five runs on seven hits with three walks after collecting the win in the first game.
Houston Baptist 10, NSU 6
The Lady Demons seemed to have a comfortable 6-1 lead after four innings, but the Huskies dumped nine runs in the fifth to secure the first game Friday.
Nicole Shedd led off the inning with a double before NSU recorded the first out. But nine straight Huskies reached base after that via six hits, one error, one walk and a hit-by-pitch without an out being recorded.
All nine runs were scored in that span, keyed by a three-run home run by Libby Brown that tied the game at 6-6. Caitlin Gunn produced an RBI double before Shedd drove in two runs with a single.
Bouvier took the loss, surrendering seven runs on seven hits. Junior pitcher Shelby Sells allowed three of the nine runs in the inning before recording the final two outs.
NSU scored five runs in the third inning to chase starter Laci Belovsky and lead 5-0.
Two runs were scored via errors, and Kincannon, Landry (2-for-4, two RBIs) and Hailee Rhodes (1-for-2, RBI) drove in the other three runs.
Brittney Jones and Jordan Rains each had two hits as NSU collected 10 in the loss.
HBU pitcher Shannon O’Connor relieved Belovsky and earned the win after allowing one run on four hits in 4 1/3 innings.