By Bud Denega, Sports Information Graduate Assistant
One overarching theme is present in Northwestern State softball’s 2021 signing class. All seven that inked with the Lady Demons either Wednesday or Thursday play in competitive environments and, therefore, have a high level of competitiveness instilled in them.
“They all play on very competitive travel ball teams that are very, very competitive and play all over the country,” NSU head coach Donald Pickett said. “They’re a step ahead of many incoming kids just because of all the competition they’ve played.
“We are excited to get them here and see what they’re able to accomplish.”
And it’s not simply the competitiveness that makes this incoming group special. It’s also the signing class’ individual backstories and upbringings that has Pickett eager to insert them into the NSU family.
“They’re good people with great families that support them,” Pickett said. “I’m just really happy to have these types of people in our program.”
The class has an eclectic mix of positions and strengths from different portions of Texas. Pickett is bringing in three players than have experienced a high level of success in the circle.
Sage Hoover, from Edgewood, Texas, plays for Rains High School. She compiled a 17-1 record as a starter in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. Hoover boasted a 0.65 ERA in 86 innings pitched with 147 strikeouts, while also doing damage at the dish with a .355 batting average.
Adriana Vences, from Marshall, Texas, was named first-team all-district as a sophomore and reeled in Newcomer of the Year honors as a freshman.
Haley Parker comes to NSU from Fort Worth, Texas, where she is a two-time all-district selection at Boswell High School.
“They all have different styles, but they’re all very competitive in the circle,” Pickett said. “They all kind of had a bulldog mentality that we like. They all have room to develop from what foundation they have, and I think their ceiling is very high.”
Derika Castillo and Bailie Ragsdale come to Natchitoches as versatile utility players. Castillo hails from Houston, where she competes for Summer Creek High School, while Ragsdale calls Lone Oak, Texas, home.
Castillo has garnered a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove thus far in her high school career. As a sophomore, she racked up a .396 batting average, 31 RBIs, an on base percentage of .467 and a slugging percentage of .626. The three-time all-district honoree logged a .436 batting average, 33 RBIs, an on base percentage of .510 and a slugging percentage of .759 as a freshman.
Ragsdale is a three-sport athlete at Lone Oak High School, competing in softball, volleyball and track and field. In softball, she has been named MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, won a Gold Glove and boasted a .547 batting average as a sophomore.
“We’ve got quite a few juniors and seniors now, and we want to make sure we added depth in different areas,” Pickett said. “We are excited about how they will fit in, and how they’ll come in here and compete for a position early.”
Vivica Hernandez and Carson Zachry will bring plenty of production. Hernandez is from Fort Worth, Texas, and Zachry is from Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Hernandez primarily plays outfield at V.R. Eaton High School where she’s a three-sport athlete. She ranked near the top of numerous DFW lists, including RBIs, hits and home runs. Hernandez was also named Newcomer of the Year as a freshman and is her school’s single-season stolen base record-holder with 18 as a sophomore.
Zachry, a second baseman, also holds a school record, as she set Mount Pleasant’s single-season hit record with 52. She has been recognized as an honorable mention all-state honoree as a sophomore and has also reeled in the Lady Tiger Offensive MVP award.
“I’m really excited about the class,” Pickett said. “We got some really athletic kids, and I’m looking for really big things out of these young ladies.”
These seven signees will join the Lady Demons for the 2022 season. The 2021 season begins Feb. 12 with NSU hosting its annual tournament.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich / NSU Photographic Services