MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Northwestern State continues its second longest road swing of the season this week with four games at the Memphis Tiger Classic against Indiana and Memphis.
The Lady Demons (12-10, 1-2) being their weekend with back-to-back games with the Hoosiers and Tigers on Friday at 2 p.m., and end with a 12 p.m. game against Indiana on Saturday and a 5 p.m. start against Memphis.
There will be no live video of any NSU games this weekend, but live stat links are available a www.nsudemons.com.
As NSU embarks on yet another challenging weekend against mid-major and Power 5 competition, head coach Donald Pickett is hopeful the kind of progress the defense has made over the past few weeks carries over into the other two phases of the game for the Demons.
After a rocky start in the field with 13 total errors in the first eight games of the year, although only leading to two unearned runs, the new-look Demon defense has seemingly found more solid footing. Despite a couple of slip-ups against Lamar, that saw two errors in two of the three games, the Demons have been very good in the field the since last week of February.
NSU has just eight errors in the past 14 games, while not perfect, a marked increase in reliability on ball that are put in play.
“Everybody is starting to settle in,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “As the season goes and they get more game reps under them it’s a big deal. We moved a lot of people around early in the season and it’s not easy to swap positions and things like that and I think everybody is starting to be confident and comfortable where they are.”
While four of the defensive positions are now the same, or very similar in the case of the two outfield spots, center and right, as they were a year ago, the other four have new players in them that weren’t there at all a year ago.
Bailie Ragsdale and Taylor Williams essentially swapped spots with Ragsdale taking over at second and Williams moving to the outfield, where Ragsdale patrolled center for NSU last season. Another even more significant change came for Tristin Court who moved from the Demons’ primary catcher a year ago to third base with the addition of Ashlyn Walker during the offseason.
In her last 11 starts since moving to third, Court has made just one error, coming in the Lamar series in the same game where she had seven total chances, the most of any game this year, and turned a crucial double play in the NSU’s win that easily outweighed the lone miscue.
“I’m really proud of Tristin at third,” Pickett said. “She’s been solid and making some great plays. We worked her are short during the fall with Keely (Dubois) at third and we decided to make that swap after the season started.
For both of them to do what they’ve done and approach the change like they have, I’m really proud of them. It shows that when you approach things the right way, keep an open mind and you’re committed to it being a team game good things will happen. They’ve been really solid for us.”
That steady progress the team has made defensively is also something that carries over to the offensive side of the ball at the plate starting this week in the Home of the Blues. The Demons have seen plenty of peaks and valleys through the first 22 games in terms of run production.
The scored five or more in every game of the Mardi Gras Mambo, with eight hits or more in four of those games, but have been held to three runs or less eight times in the 11 games since that weekend.
“I want to see us continue to move forward and take what we’re working on and the things that we’re tweaking at the plate and putting them to use in game situations,” Pickett said. “When you’re struggling a little bit and tweaking swings in the middle of the year it takes some reps and time to get confident. Whether it’s slow progress or fast I just want to see us moving forward and in the right direction with those things.”