Pitching was expected to be a strength this season for Northwestern State softball with three returners, but the staff got stronger with the addition of right-hander Jensen Howell.
NSU softball coach Donald Pickett announced the signing Thursday of Howell, who started her career at Louisiana Tech before throwing this past season at LSU-Eunice.
Howell, the Dudley NJCAA Division II Pitcher of the Year, is a first-team All-American and the D-II Tournament Most Outstanding Pitcher as she led LSU-E to a national championship this past season.
“We now have four pitchers that we’re confident in, and Jensen gives us some diversity on our staff,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett, who adds Howell to senior Sammie Guile, junior E.C. Delafield and sophomore Bronte Rhoden. “Jensen is a power pitcher who moves the ball around and keeps batters honest.
“She can pitch on the inner part of the plate and change speeds. We’re really excited to bring her in, and this one of the most experienced pitching staffs we’ve had in awhile.”
Howell, who will enter NSU as a junior this spring, compiled a 22-3 record with a 1.19 ERA as the Tigers posted a 52-6 overall record. She added four saves with 173 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings.
The Pollock native, who earned second-team status on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Collegiate all-state team, also has some pop in her bat, hitting .322 with 33 RBIs.
“She can help us offensively, too,” Pickett said. “Jensen gives us options in the circle and at the plate.”
Howell pitched as a freshman at Louisiana Tech, appearing in 17 games with five starts. She compiled a 5-3 mark with a 3.50 ERA and batted .300 in 20 at-bats.
The Holy Savior Menard standout was of the state’s best high school pitchers in her time, earning four selections to LSWA all-state teams as well as state MVP and most outstanding player.
Howell was named the 2016 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior with a 21-3 record and 1.60 ERA as a junior.
She finished her high school career with a 79-17 record and 1,011 strikeouts.
Menard advanced to the Class 2A state title game three times in Howell’s five seasons, winning it all in 2015.