Four NCAA Tournament teams highlight Northwestern State slate

Northwestern State softball fans don’t have to wait long to see quality opponents in the friendly confines of Lady Demon Diamond as head coach Donald Pickett announced his 2022 softball schedule Thursday.

NSU plays the first of six tournaments this season at home with the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission Lady Demon Classic from Feb. 11-13, featuring Baylor, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

That tournament kicks off a 16-game home schedule that includes midweeks against Louisiana Tech (March 29) and Grambling (March 1) along with home Southland Conference series against Nicholls (April 1-2), McNeese (April 15-16) and Incarnate Word (April 22-23).

Baylor is making its second appearance in Natchitoches in the Donald Pickett era, while Pickett hosts his alma mater UT Chattanooga for the first time.

“We’re excited about this schedule, which starts off with a great tournament at home with lots of competitive teams,” said Pickett who is beginning his 14th season at NSU. “We’ll get to see where we are as a team really quick, and it’s a positive thing to get to play quality teams at home.”

Because the Southland Conference has seven softball playing members, NSU’s league schedule shrunk to six conference series, which means the Demons added two extra tournament weekends to the schedule.

NSU heads up to the UT Chattanooga Tournament (UTC, Tennessee Tech, SIU-Edwardsville, Indiana State and Purdue Fort Wayne) on Feb. 18-20 before jetting to South Louisiana for Mardi Gras Mambo (Lipscomb, Eastern Illinois, St. Thomas, Portland State and Alabama).

The UT-Arlington Tournament is next (March 4-6) with UTA, UT-San Antonio and on the docket.

The Lady Demons stay in Texas to play in the Houston Tournament (March 11-13) before packing up to go to Memphis for a three-team event with Memphis and Ball State. Pickett was an assistant at Memphis before beginning his head coaching career at NSU.

“Playing in more tournaments gives us an opportunity to evaluate our younger players for a longer period of time,” Pickett said. “We can play younger kids in spots in the tournament, and that’s a really positive thing to see what they can do against high quality opponents at these tournaments before conference play begins.”

Including reigning SLC champion McNeese, NSU has four NCAA Tournament teams on its schedule – Women’s College World Series participant Alabama along with McNeese, Baylor and Portland State.

NSU begins Southland Conference play at Houston Baptist (March 25-26), which starts the six weeks of league play.

The Lady Demons host Nicholls (April 1-2), travel to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (April 8-9), welcome McNeese (April 15-16) and Incarnate Word (April 22-23) before finishing at Southeastern (May 5-6).

All home doubleheaders in SLC play will be on Friday.
The SLC Tournament runs from May 10-13 at Southeastern.
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