Big hits and big bats are crucial for offensive success and that is exactly what head coach Donald Pickett wants to see more of from his Northwestern State softball team.
The Lady Demons (7-7) got a first-hand look at the damage those big hits, specifically the ones that go for extra bases, can do this past weekend against a pair of Top 25 caliber opponents in the North Texas Invitational.
As NSU enters a seven-game home stand beginning with the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission Lady Demons Classic this weekend, it hopes to see an uptick in the power numbers from its top hitters.
“We need to generate some extra-base hits offensively,” Pickett said. “I think that’s what really changed the games this past weekend. We were having to put two or three hits together and most of those were singles. We could never get that extra-base hit to score multiple runs in an inning. The other teams were able to get those big hits.”
Of the 18 extra base hits from Wichita State and North Texas this past weekend, 12 of them scored at least one run, including a couple of home runs that opened up the game for NSU’s opponents in what were close games before the swings.
NSU gets its first chance to up the slugging totals on Friday with the start of the Lady Demon Classic against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 3 p.m. It is the first of three straight days of doubleheaders at Lady Demon Diamond where NSU, UAPB and Jackson State face off in a round robin type weekend with each team playing the other two times.
NSU faces Jackson State on Saturday at 5 p.m. and ends the weekend with a doubleheader against the two teams starting on Sunday at 10 a.m. All NSU games can be seen on ESPN+ with the full tournament schedule available at www.nsudemons.com.
Through 14 games this season NSU has a total of 19 extra-base hits which is just slightly below what it had to this point a season ago with 26. The difference is in the long ball numbers.
Derika Castillo and Kat Marshall, each with one apiece, account for all the home runs it by NSU this season. The Demons had eight dingers through 14 games last year with both Marshall and Laney Roos accounting for three each.
“We’ve got players that have hit with a lot of power in their time here,” Pickett said. “Looking for that to turnaround and hopefully it will start this weekend.”
NSU’s top three power hitters, Marshall, Roos and Keely Dubois, all have career slugging percentages greater than .410.
Getting runners on the bases has not been the challenge for the Demons thus far this year. NSU has a team on-base percentage of .337 with five batters reaching at a .350 or better clip on the year. NSU is third in league at advancing runners on the bases with 10 sacrifice hits on the year. The next step Pickett hopes to see is taking advantage of those two-out opportunities or simply speeding the trip around the bases along with bigger hits.
“Our approaches at the plate have gotten better through the season we just didn’t get the results we wanted in those situations,” Pickett said. “If we can get those extra-base hits and get those runners on with less than two outs that’s going to be big for us. Seemed like every time we had runners at second and third this past week it was with two outs. It’s hard to get three and four hits in an inning, especially against a quality team and quality pitching.”
The pitching staffs for NSU’s two opponents this weekend have surrendered 65 total extra-base hits so far this season. A few more from the Demons as they begin a seven-game home will go a long way as they close in on the conference opener against Lamar in a week’s time.
“Excited about the chance to play several games here at home this weekend,” Pickett said. “Hopefully this can help us build some confidence as before conference play starts because it’s basically here. Hopefully the things we’ve learned the first three weeks of the season we’ll put together and have a big weekend.”