Northwestern State returns to Southland Conference play this weekend against the power-speed lineup combination of Nicholls.
First pitch for Friday’s doubleheader in Thibodaux is set for 4 p.m. with Saturday’s series finale scheduled for 12 p.m. All games can be seen on ESPN+ with live stat links also available through www.nsudemons.com.
The Lady Demons (14-12, 1-2) finish their eight-game road swing with the Nicholls series after a potential season-altering Saturday in Memphis, namely for the offense, but also for perhaps the most important part of the game, the mental side.
“I thought we were able to do a really good job of continuing to play the game whether we were up or we were down,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “We played the whole entire game in each of the four and I was proud of that, because we’ve been up and down a bit in that mentality this year.”
NSU was on the verge of being run-ruled in Saturday’s first game, when Laney Roos hit a bases-loaded, two-out double to extend the game in the bottom of the fifth. Although they still went on to lose the game to a hot Indiana squad, three more runs in the ninth set the stage for what would be a breakout type game a few hours later.
Even through the three-hour down time between games, the Demons held the momentum in the finale against Memphis, scoring four runs in the first inning. The Tigers responded with a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning, but an unphased Demon team batted around for the second straight inning for the biggest offensive inning of the year with seven runs on the way to a 15-5 run-rule win.
“We continued to play, continued to put pressure on them, continued to score runs until we really opened it up,” Pickett said. “We never took any innings off, were able to finish that game out and that was a big deal for us moving forward. If we can keep that mentality going, there’s going to be good things happening for us.”
After dropping two of three at home to Lamar two weeks ago to open conference play, the Demons are hopeful the shift in the mental game leads to a reversal on the scoreboard as well.
Nicholls (17-11, 4-2) enters its third weekend of league play with two series wins under its belt against UIW and at Texas A&M-Commerce thanks to one of the more dynamic offenses in the conference.
The Colonels have the Southland’s top team batting average of .309 with two of its top hitters in terms of average and power to go along with speed on the bases with a league-best 79 stolen bases which ranks in the top 10 in the country.
“They’re a much-improved team and have gotten off to a really good start,” Pickett said. “It’s going to be tough going down to Thibodaux and try and get a series win. We’ve got to try and keep them off the bases first and foremost and if they give us some outs we have to take them. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a pretty good chance to win.”
Colonel run producers Melise Gossen, who leads the conference with eight home runs and a .756 slugging percentage, and Erin Krause, who leads the SLC with a .450 batting average, have benefited from the aggressiveness on the bases to drive in a combined 58 runs this year.
Nicholls has five players ranked in the top 10 in the conference in steals this season and three in the top five with the best steal percentage of .878 (79-for-90), setting up one of the key matchups of the weekend.
NSU has allowed just 16 stolen bases this season, tied for second fewest in the conference, due in large part to the defensive work behind the plate of Ashlyn Walker keeping runners in check when they do reach base. She has just one passed ball on the year as well, tied for the fewest in the conference.
“This game a lot of times still boils down to pitching and catching,” Pickett said. “We’ve got confidence in her that she’ll do a lot of good things back there, but Nicholls is going to do a lot of what the other conference teams do and try and make things happen on the bases.”