By Bud Denega, Sports Information Graduate Assistant
There are a multitude of layers packed into the Northwestern State softball team’s home series against Southeastern Louisiana.
The three-game set — which commences Friday with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. — is the final one of the season, making it Senior Day for five Lady Demons. It’s also the battle for the Cypress Trophy, and that comes with added importance, as Southland Conference seeding implications are present.
“It’s really big,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “Whoever wins this series puts themselves in a really good situation going into the tournament — not only from a seeding standpoint but also a momentum standpoint.”
NSU sits fifth in the conference standings at 20-19 overall and 14-10 in league action. The Lady Lions are positioned fourth at 26-19 overall and 13-8 in conference play.
The Lady Demons could vault into the top four with a sweep of Southeastern Louisiana. That would give them a first-round bye and keep them out of the single-elimination portion of the bracket.
While that’s a big storyline surrounding the series, NSU is focusing on the micro.
“At the end of the day, it’s not one person that’s going to help us get to a seed or help us get to the NCAA tournament, it’s how we can come together and really play for each other,” senior outfielder Elise Vincent said. “At the end of the day, we have a job to do, and push past those emotions.”
The emotions she’s referring to will be shared by her and four other teammates. Vincent, Hayley Barbazon, Emma Hawthorne, Kaitlyn St. Clair and junior E.C. Delafield will be celebrated following the single game Saturday at 12 p.m.
The entire series will stand as one to honor those five, and with that can come a mix bag of feelings. Pickett has seen both sides of that coin.
He has seen seniors and teams want to do so well and utilize the emotion of Senior Day and try too hard, only to have it backfire. Pickett has also seen that emotion act as fuel for a weekend full of memories and success on the diamond, and he expects that to be the case against the Lady Lions.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in (our seniors),” Pickett said. “They’ve been around here along enough, so they understand we have to get some things done this weekend to put ourselves in a good situation next week. That was a goal they set out for themselves, and I know they are working hard to attain those goals.”
The last half decade has seen the Lady Demons win 116 games. More than half of those have occurred on the Lady Demon Diamond, and the five departing players will look to build on the impressive 60-28 mark at home during that stretch.
“There’s always excitement when you’re playing, especially at home,” Vincent said. “But it’s also going to be a little sad, so it’s going to a little bittersweet. I want to focus on what we can do to better each other. That’s the emotion I want to focus on.”
Delafield has done it all for NSU this spring. She’s hitting .304 with seven doubles, two home runs and 19 RBIs. Delafield is also stout in the circle, boasting a 9-4 record with a 1.99 ERA and 86 strikeouts.
St. Clair is also hitting north of .300. She owns a .303 average with five doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs.
Freshman infielder Keely DuBois leads NSU offensively. She lays claim to a .325 batting average with a pair of doubles, one home run and 15 RBIs.
Audrey Greely paces the Lady Lions. She has a .378 batting average with three homers and 21 RBIs. Four other SLU players hold a batting average over .300.
Heather Zumo represents the Lady Lions’ best pitcher. She’s 15-5 with a 2.17 ERA and 134 strikeouts.
As stated, the Cypress Trophy will be on the line this weekend. NSU has dominated the all-time series, 82-38, and swept SLU the last time the two met in Natchitoches in 2019.
With this weekend also being graduation for NSU, any fans associated with a graduate can purchase $5 tickets with a graduation cap in hand.
Photo: Chris Reich / NSU Photographic Services
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