Lady Demons look to lean into experience in final road trip

COMMERCE, Texas – With just two weeks left in the regular season Northwestern State is looking for a touch of the familiar in a new location as it makes its final road trip of the year. 

The Lady Demons (23-20, 9-9) make their first trip to Texas A&M-Commerce (7-35, 3-15) this weekend for the first meeting between the two teams in program history beginning with Friday’s 5 p.m. doubleheader and ending on Saturday with a lone 12 p.m. game. 

All games in the series will be broadcast on ESPN+. 

While the venue may be brand new to the Demons, head coach Donald Pickett is hopeful his veteran roster is able to lean into their experience to play quality softball with each game, inning and pitch taking on more and more importance. 

The Demons took two of three from the other Texas A&M affiliated school in the conference last weekend, bumping them into a de facto tie for third in the league standings. With the head-to-head tiebreaker against both HCU and Corpus, the two other teams with 9-9 records, the Demons have the inside track for the three seed. 

“That was a big series to win,” Pickett said. “It put us in a place to be able to finish well here at the end of the season. But we have to continue to play pitch-by-pitch with every game here on out being bigger that the last.” 

NSU has played some quality softball in April despite the 6-5 record during the month. One more hit here or there and a couple less errors and the Demons could have easily picked up two or three more wins.  

There have been eight games during April where NSU had six or more hits, including three double-digit efforts, and seven with one or fewer errors. NSU has a 5-1 record in games during April where those two stats overlap. 

“It’s really about us being able to play good fundamentally sound softball, making the plays we’re supposed to make and having good quality at bats,” Pickett said. “It’s always a challenge when you’re on the road, it’s a new place for us to play and they’ve got a good pitcher over there that has done some really good things. Hopefully we’ll be ready to go and come out and attack the game and be aggressive and continue to put pressure on teams every inning.” 

Commerce’s Julia Sanchez makes it two consecutive weekends where the Demons face the reigning conference pitcher of the week. Sanchez tossed a pair of complete games as the Lions won their first Southland series of the year against UIW, including their first Division I no-hitter. 

The sophomore has allowed just three earned runs in her previous 28 1/3 innings of work, both of those came in a non-conference meeting at Arkansas. Sanchez has not allowed an earned run in the previous 19 consecutive innings against Southland competition. 

Thanks to some quality plate appearances, the Lady Demons were able to create run-scoring chances against one of the top contenders for pitcher of the year a week ago in Corpus’ Prim Aholelei. They will look to have similar success this weekend against Sanchez as they try tap into the wealth of games, at bats and situations they’ve seen during their NSU careers. 

“We should be confident in every situation that we see over the next few weeks and be able to play the way we’ve played all year,” Pickett said. “We shouldn’t be getting caught up in the moments, getting sped up and changing who we are because we’ve been there and seen it before. Hopefully we’ll be able to use that to our advantage.”