Rhoden makes the most of time at NSU

“College is more than just athletics or just academics…it’s a lifetime experience.” 

Those are the words of Northwestern State senior pitcher Bronte Rhoden who will cap of her softball and college years this weekend as softball hosts Southeastern in its home finale. The series begins with Friday’s 4 p.m. doubleheader with the final game on Saturday at 12 p.m. 

Looking back on her time spent in Natchitoches, it’s easy to see how Rhoden took those words to heart and lived them out every step of the way. 

Every student-athlete requires a certain level of balance between their chosen sport and their chosen degree plan, both of which can take up the majority of any given day. For Rhoden however, she saw the opportunity to see, do and experience more than just softball and school from the moment she stepped on campus. 

“I think it goes along with going to school here,” she said. “With NSU being a smaller campus, you can be more than just a student-athlete. And since those opportunities where there for me, it made we want to explore my options. College is a lifetime experience and I wanted to make the most of it.” 

And make the most of it she did. 

From joining and being an active member of the Tri Sigma sorority, to leading the NSU chapters of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) as their presidents, to pitching nearly 300 innings in the circle for the softball team, all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.   

“I had to have a really good planner,” she joked. “I always put my school stuff first because that is the main reason I am here, but I used my planner to make the most out of my time. If I had 30 minutes in between classes, I’m going to be studying or preparing for something. If there’s time between a bullpen session and practice, I’ll get out my books.” 

Just a small sampling of the level of involvement and investment Rhoden has made in Natchitoches, NSU and everyone she crossed paths with along the way.  

“I am so incredibly blessed to not only call Bronte a teammate, but a friend,” fellow pitching staff member Kenzie Seely said. “She is an amazing, kind and thoughtful person that puts her whole heart into anything she is passionate about. She is a competitive and determined athlete that never gives up, every pitch of every game. When I came in my freshman year she took me under her wing and always wished the absolute best for me, for that I will forever be grateful.” 

That passion and thoughtfulness did not go unnoticed by people outside of NSU and the softball program in 2021. 

As president of SAAC, Rhoden helped spearhead, along with men’s track and field sprinter Ebenezer Aggrey, multiple projects and initiatives that earned both of them the Southland Conference Steve McCarty Citizenship Award. 

Given to one male and one female athlete each year in the conference, the award recognizes student-athletes that exhibit outstanding qualities in citizenship, sportsmanship, leadership and community service. 

One of her most memorable, and proudest, moments, she attributed the award and experience of serving as SAAC president during that time to the mentorship she received from former NSU academic advisors Kaitlyn McCanna-Doty and Taylor McFall. 

“She wants the best for our campus and the student athletes,” Seely said. “With juggling school, work, softball and everything else, she always made time to care for the people around her. She is just an all-around role model.” 

Her ability and desire to do so many different things off the field is also reflected in her abilities on the field. Rhoden has appeared in 90 games during her five-year career with nearly half of them coming in a starting role and the other in relief. 

Her seven career saves are among the most by a single pitcher in program history and the most by one pitcher in head coach Donald Pickett’s 15 years at NSU. Rhoden has earned 20 wins in her career with perhaps the most impressive coming in the final home game of the 2021 season where she struck out a career-best 12 in a two-hit shutout of UIW. 

She earned her first postseason all-conference honor following the season landing on the second team in a stacked pitching league.

“Bronte has meant a lot to our program and been a real important part of our team the past five years,” Pickett said. “She’s obviously been a great student and been great in the community. It shows you how well-rounded of a person she is. She’s represents our team and sport really well everywhere she goes. She’s the type of player and person we want in our program.” 

Thanks to her determination, and elite planning abilities, Rhoden has earned her biology degree this past fall, graduating summa cum laude and will continue towards a nursing career. 

Despite all the long days and nights spent in class, studying, practicing her rise ball, planning campus events, working in the community and helping the Demons win on the softball field, her time at NSU went by in a flash.  

Her advice to her younger self is easy, enjoy it every step of the way. 

“I know it’s kind of cliché but just to soak it all in,” she said. “They say these years go fast but they really do. I’ve been here five years, but it feels like I just stepped onto campus. I would also say to give yourself a little bit of grace. That was something I struggled with my freshman year so understanding that it’s a different ball game here on the field and understanding that you are here for a reason and God put you here for a reason.”