Baylor to play Lady Demons in home opener Wednesday

MATT VINES
Assistant Director of Communication

Playing three games against top-10 opponents this season, Northwestern State knows what it’s like to step into an opposing stadium with every facet going against them.

The Lady Demons (9-11-1) will experience the other side Wednesday when it welcomes No. 15 Baylor (18-4) to Lady Demon Diamond for a 5 p.m. doubleheader.

These Bears will be the third ranked team to visit Natchitoches in the Donald Pickett era after then-No. 9 Baylor won two games in 2015 and then-No. 24 LSU escaped with a 5-3 win in 2014.

“It’s definitely good to play at home, whether it’s against a ranked team or not,” said Pickett, whose team will play at home for the first time this season after playing 21 games on the road. “It’s the comfort of it, knowing your surroundings and knowing the crowd is on your side.

“Any time you can make kids more comfortable in their environment, the better shot you have at playing well and having a chance to win the game.”

Baylor coach Glenn Moore won’t be totally uncomfortable in Natchitoches. Moore played football and coached softball at Northwestern State, using his experience as a fastpitch softball player back in his native Mississippi to aid the Lady Demons and start his softball coaching career.

Moore, who’s appeared in three Women’s College World Series and 13 NCAA Regionals in his 18 overall seasons in Division I, married Campti native Janice Miller, who set NSU’s high jump record that stood for more than a decade.

Former NSU softball coach Rickey McCalister, the program’s all-time winningest coach who hired Moore and will throw out the first pitch Wednesday, remembers Moore as a soft-spoken student who developed into a respected leader as a head coach.

“Glenn and Steve Pezant lived in [Prather Coliseum], and they started by helping to watch the softball field when we weren’t there,” said McCalister, who won 245 games in eight seasons. “Then Glenn wanted to help coach.

“He played fastpitch softball in high school, and he was great to have around because he could throw batting practice. Glenn always had the knowledge, and he was a mild-mannered Christian guy as a student. He was a loyal assistant coach as a student (1990-93), and he related well with the kids, who would have been his peers at the time. Once he became a head coach at William Carey and later an LSU assistant, he started to assert himself and took charge.” Pickett has played Moore’s Baylor team 10 times at NSU, including twice in 2016. NSU lost a sixth-inning lead in a 4-3 defeat in Waco, Texas, and four of those 10 games were decided by three runs or fewer.

“Glenn’s ties to NSU are big, and he has roots here with his wife and friends in the community,” Pickett said about factors in attracting a ranked team to Natchitoches. “The upgrades to our facility has helped, too.

“Hopefully we’ll continue this relationship with Glenn and Baylor. With him open to making return trips here, that’s huge for us. The community does some things for them when they come in, so it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Since NSU’s softball record book tracked rankings in 2005, the Lady Demons are 0-45 against ranked opponents. The Lady Demons did beat receiving votes Mississippi State this past season, one of three wins against Power Five opponents (Oklahoma State in 2016 and Maryland this season).

This season, NSU tied then-No. 1 Florida in the sixth inning (9-3 loss) before trailing just 1-0 to defending national champion and No. 9 Oklahoma into the sixth this season. Florida also won 10-0.

Senior Brittney Jones would love to put NSU into the win column in front of the home crowd.

“It would satisfy us greatly, and it can show that we can be on the same field as these teams,” said Jones, who is second all-time at NSU in slugging percentage and third in walks. “Some people sometimes neglect to feel that way. To get a win would show everybody we belong on the field.

“Having our atmosphere will be big instead of having to play in front of their fans with their cheers. Having played [Florida and Oklahoma] close will help our confidence, and we need a win in a game like this so everybody will go up to that next level.”

Hitting one spot ahead of Jones in the lineup, senior Kellye Kincannon will elevate NSU’s record books to the next level.

The Lake Jackson native broke NSU’s career total bases mark this past weekend and now has 382. Kincannon is tied with former teammate Cassandra Barefield with 161 RBIs after currently holding NSU’s career records in slugging percentage (.733) with batting average, runs scored and home runs in reach this season.

Fellow senior Micayla Sorosiak has had the best season as she leads the team with a .389 batting average, 13 runs scored and is second with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

“It’s huge to play at home in front of our fans,” Sorosiak said. “It’s amazing to have those big teams come to us instead of us having to go to them.

“It would mean so much for us to get a win, and we can do it. We have the fight to do it.”

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