Northwestern State seniors don’t want careers to end in regular-season softball finale

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NATCHITOCHES — Four of Northwestern State’s five softball seniors have played in NCAA Tournaments — three as Lady Demons and the other against the Lady Demons as a member of the Houston Cougars.

The year was 2014, and NSU freshmen Kellye Kincannon, Brittney Jones and Micayla Sorosiak were on a Lady Demons team that lost a 7-6 heartbreaker to Houston and then-Cougar Jordan Rains.

Michaela Johnson, a transfer from Iowa who yearned to be closer to her Wake Village, Texas, home, joined the group in 2015. Rains played her last two seasons in NSU starting in 2016.

The senior class will play their last home games this weekend when Central Arkansas comes to town for a three-game series starting Friday, but these five players don’t want Saturday to be the end of their softball careers.

They want a chance at another NCAA Tournament appearance, and the Lady Demons (21-29-1, 11-13 Southland Conference) will likely need to win two of three games from UCA (22-31, 12-12 SLC) as five teams fight for the last three seeds in the Southland Conference Tournament, the winner of which will receive an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

“It would be huge for not just the seniors but for the freshmen and sophomores to see all the hard work that goes into just making it (to the SLC Tournament),” said Sorosiak, a three-year starter who is sixth in career slugging percentage. “It’s been awesome to play with these girls and these athletes.

“I’ve pushed myself to be up there with these other seniors. It’s been awesome to play for (NSU).”

Kincannon, Jones and Sorosiak have been a part of the greatest offensive era in NSU history, playing on teams that averaged 5.25 runs per game and totaled almost 1,100 runs in 209 games.

One of the greatest power trios in NSU history, the threesome combined for 120 home runs and 417 RBIs.

Kincannon is NSU’s career leader with 184 RBIs, a .721 slugging percentage and is tied for home runs (53) with former teammate Cassandra Barefield. The Lake Jackson, Texas, native paired her power with bat control as she’s second in career batting average (.356) and runs scored (149).

“Yes my name will be in the record books, but that’s not what I will tell other people,” Kincannon said. “My memories will be on the field with these girls and with past teammates like (volunteer assistant) Tara McKenney, Barefield and Brianna Rodriguez.

“I want to pass on to these freshmen what those players passed on to me when I was a freshman. Relationships are lifelong regardless of the game, but putting those memories with the game makes it that much better. The individual accomplishments come with the help from and success of your teammates.”

Kincannon’s 53 career home runs ranks ninth among the NCAA’s active career leaders.

Her best statistical season came as a sophomore when she set NSU single-season records with 48 runs scored, 60 RBIs and a .789 slugging percentage to pair with a .409 batting average.

“Kellye is one of the most dynamic players to ever play here,” said ninth-year NSU coach Donald Pickett. “Offensively, she’s done about everything you can do, and I hope she has a big weekend this weekend along with all of our seniors.

“She’s a special kid that’s worked hard for four years, and she’s battled through an injury she’s had since her freshman season and has earned a lot of respect from her teammates.”

Kincannon will have company in the record books as Brittney Jones is the program’s career leader in walks, tied for third with 38 home runs and is in NSU’s top seven in slugging percentage (.580), total bases (330) and doubles (39).

“I have no words. I didn’t think of going to a program like NSU that’s been so good for so long since softball became a college sport,” Jones said. “We’ll have to work hard to win this series this weekend because we want one more shot at the Southland Conference Tournament.”

Sorosiak arguably carries the most punch per inch at only 5-foot-2, but Pickett said it’s hard to measure the contribution of any of his three four-year seniors.

“Sorosiak, Jones and Kincannon were big parts of great teams that went to one NCAA Tournament (2014) and won a conference regular season title (2015),” Pickett said. “Both Jones and Sorosiak played different positions here to help us be more versatile and get more bats in the lineup.

“Jones can change the game with one swing of the bat. Sorosiak has gotten a lot of big-time hits. All three of those kids have shown up and played all four years whether they were hurt or not, and that says a lot.”

Jordan Rains, a two-year starter after playing at Houston for two years, fought her way back into the starting lineup and has been NSU’s most consistent bat with a team-leading .304 batting average this season.

Rains said she had to “trust the process” and keep working hard to break out of her early-season struggles.
“You never give up, and when you’re called upon, you do the job you’re asked to do,” Rains said. “Nobody succeeds all the time and will fail, but it will come with patience and hard work and trusting the process.”

Pickett said Rains’ fall reps were limited by injury, but the Houston native displayed patience in her journey back to the everyday lineup.

“It shows a lot of character from Jordan, who continued to improve all spring,” Pickett said. “She filled spots in the middle of the lineup when other kids struggled, and she’s a great kid with a really positive attitude who picks everybody up on our team.

“Michaela Johnson is another player that everybody enjoys being around. She had to do some things with her major and had some injuries and illnesses in her career. But when she has a chance to produce, she’s done that in our lineup.”

Johnson may not be on any career leader chart, but she owns a statistic not likely held by any other Lady Demon.

The former Iowa transfer recorded hits in her first four NSU at-bats.

“We’re a big family in Natchitoches, and this family embraces you,” Johnson said. “Natchitoches is just two hours away from my family, which is down the street when compared with Iowa.

“I always did as much as I could to help the team I’ll remember all the good times we had and the connections I’ve made with these girls.”

The five seniors will be honored after the doubleheader Saturday.

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