When the 2019 Northwestern State baseball and softball seasons arrive, they will do so with head coaches who have longer contracts.
Northwestern State Director of Athletics Greg Burke announced contract extensions for head baseball coach Bobby Barbier and head softball coach Donald Pickett on Friday. The extensions were approved by the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors during their Aug. 22 meeting.
Barbier’s extension puts him under contract through the 2022 season and comes after the former Demons first baseman led his alma mater to its first Southland Conference Tournament championship in May.
The Demons engineered an 18-win improvement in Barbier’s second season, the largest single-season turnaround in school history. Barbier was named Southland Conference, All-Louisiana and ABCA All-Central Region Coach of the Year as the Demons advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the first time in 13 years and posted their first NCAA postseason win in the same time frame, a 9-0 defeat of San Diego State on June 2 at the Corvallis Regional.
“It is very pleasing to grant this well-deserved contract extension to Bobby,” NSU Director of Athletics Greg Burke said. “What the program accomplished this past season – on and off the field – is a result of his hard work and coaching ability as well as the passion he exudes every day for his alma mater.
“As a young, second-year coach, Bobby did an outstanding job of representing NSU, especially at the NCAA Regional where several individuals, from members of the media to fans to NCAA representatives, commented on how well he carried himself. Bobby has very quickly put in place a championship culture that I am very confident can be sustained. The future of Demon baseball is in good hands under his leadership.”
Barbier took a team predicted to finish 11th in the Southland Conference race and steered it to a third-place, regular-season finish and the first SLC Tournament title in the program’s 30 years of conference membership.
Doubling as the team’s pitching coach, Barbier helped guide the NSU staff to a 3.41 ERA, which ranked 18th nationally. Additionally, NSU finished second in the nation in double plays per game (1.13) and third in double plays turned (70).
“Our staff is very fortunate to work for an administration who can see the long-term vision of where we want the Demon baseball program to go,” said Barbier, an All-SLC first baseman and third-team Academic All-American during his Demons playing career from 2003-06. “I want to thank Greg Burke, (vice president for external affairs) Jerry Pierce and (university president) Dr. Chris Maggio for their confidence in us.”
Pickett became Northwestern State’s leader in career softball coaching wins on Feb. 16 and enters the 2019 season 269-266-1 in 10 seasons with the Lady Demons. He is the longest-tenured softball coach in NSU program history.
Pickett has guided Northwestern State to a pair of Southland Conference Tournament titles (2013, 2014), two NCAA Regional berths and the 2015 SLC regular-season championships. In addition to adding one year to Pickett’s contract, which runs through the 2021 season, there is an option for the 2022 season.
Since posting a 5-45 record in his first season at the helm of the Lady Demons program in need of rebuilding, Pickett has led Northwestern State to a 264-221-1 mark, a .544 winning percentage.
“It’s a good feeling to further solidify the foundation of Donald’s steady influence and dedication on the NSU softball program with this contract extension,” Burke said. “He works tirelessly and often beneath the radar to find ways to better the program for his student-athletes. He also has done a remarkable job of immersing himself in the Natchitoches community and connecting with the NSU softball alumni base.
“He genuinely cares about his student-athletes, is well-respected in the college softball community, and represents NSU with class. NSU has been fortunate to have him as its softball coach for the past 10 years, and it is reassuring to know that the program will continue to benefit from his leadership.”
Pickett steered a young Lady Demons squad to a 28-25 record in 2018 and a berth in the Southland Conference Tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons. In his 10 seasons, Pickett has led the Lady Demons to six conference tournament appearances.
He is a two-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year (2013, 2015) and has instructed 22 players who have been named to either the first- or second-team All-Southland Conference squads. Additionally, Pickett has coached four All-South Region selections, including Cayla Jones, a first-team selection at second base in 2018. Jones, the All-Louisiana Freshman of the Year, joined Kellye Kincannon, Tara McKenney and Mikayla Brown as Pickett-coached all-region selections.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to continue to move our program forward,” Pickett said. “We love Natchitoches and the people here. This is a great place to be.”