NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State’s lack of success in one-run and extra-inning games partly explain why the Lady Demons sat off the fringe of the Southland Conference Tournament entering the weekend series against Nicholls.
The Lady Demons did a lot to reverse those fortunes with a pair of one-run wins to take the series against the third-place Colonels.
NSU sealed the series win by taking the finale 6-5 on Saturday after the Colonels won the first game 6-2.
The Lady Demons (20-27-1, 10-11 SLC) finish the regular season with a series at Houston Baptist before coming home to face Central Arkansas.
NSU has won its last three conference series and is 4-1 in its last five one-run games, reversing a trend in which the Lady Demons started the season 2-8 in one-run or extra-inning games.
“Every game means so much when you’re in the conference race, and it was really big for our girls to step back up to win this finale after things didn’t go our way in the first game Saturday,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “To come back and win this game after fighting to win game one, it’s huge for our momentum and confidence.”
NSU jumped Southeastern to move into a tie for sixth place among tournament-eligible teams with Central Arkansas (swept Southeastern). The Lady Demons (10-11) kept pace with fourth-place Sam Houston State (11-10 SLC) and fifth-place Stephen F. Austin (9-9 SLC), who both won two of three this weekend.
NSU 6, Nicholls 5
Senior Micayla Sorosiak’s three-run home run in the fifth inning gave NSU the lead for good as the Lady Demons fended off a Nicholls rally over the last two innings.
Trailing 4-3, seniors Jordan Rains and Brittney Jones produced one-out singles before Sorosiak launched her fifth home run this season, the first since Feb. 26, to put NSU up 6-4.
“(NSU assistant coach Amy Hooks) said to have my best at bat of the day, and that’s what I did,” said Sorosiak, who had three hits and reached base two other times in the series. “I wasn’t swinging at anything that wasn’t my pitch, and I was going at (Nicholls pitcher Jackie Johnson).
“We have a lot more confidence and swagger when we go on the field. We know that we’re good enough to hang with all these teams, and we’re starting to trust each other more and more. That’s what we need, and we’re all in it together. We’re getting better and we’re getting there.”
Sorosiak’s (2-for-3, 4 RBIs) other hit was an RBI double that scored Hailee Rhodes as part of NSU’s two-run first inning.
“(Sorosiak) has been having better at bats, and I think her pitch selection has been a lot better,” Pickett said. “Jordan Rains and Brittney Jones got hits up the middle, and Mac hit a big ball there to put us up for good.
“It’s really good to see those seniors step up and doing those things. Hopefully they continue to relax and play like they can play because we really need them down the stretch.”
Nicholls responded with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Kasey Frederick to cut NSU’s lead to 6-5, but sophomore pitcher Mikayla Brown (13-11) ended the threat and retired three straight Colonels in the seventh inning for the win.
Brown allowed a season-high 11 hits, but her seven strikeouts and NSU’s solid defensive play led to nine stranded base runners.
The Deville native has won nine of her last 11 starts, including two wins against Nicholls.
Two Nicholls errors led to two unearned NSU runs in the first three innings.
Kellye Kincannon, whose three hits this weekend tied her for fourth all-time at NSU with Brandy Kenney (216 hits), drove in Sidney Salmans (singled).
Sorosiak doubled in Rhodes, who reached on a fielding error.
Nicholls’ Frederick hit her second home run of the weekend in the third inning, a three-run shot for a 3-2 lead. Sydney Bourg (2-for-3, three runs scored) doubled and Amanda Gianelloni (3-for-3) singled.
Jones (2-for-3) tied the game 3-3 with an RBI single to score Rhodes, who reached on an error.
Nicholls snatched a 4-3 lead in the fourth inning on a Gianelloni RBI single as Nicholls mustered three two-out hits in the frame.
Nicholls 6, NSU 2
The Colonels struck for all six of their runs in the second inning as they took the second game of the series.
After NSU starter Katelyn Boles (5-13) worked around two free passes in the first inning, the Colonels cashed in on four walks and an error for the big inning.
Samantha Mracich drew a bases-loaded walk before a combined four runs scored on hits by Amanda Gianelloni, Kasey Frederick and Brooklyn Devine.
A play with two errors brought in Nicholls’ other run.
Boles allowed five runs (four earned) on one hit, five walks and one hit-by-pitch in 1 2/3 innings.
Reliever Hayley Barbazon was credited with one of those second-inning runs (unearned) before she tossed four scoreless innings with four total hits.
NSU responded with two second-inning runs, one on an Emma Hawthorne RBI double and the other a Julie Rawls ground out RBI.
Hawthorne’s mother Sheri, a cancer survivor, threw out the first pitch as NSU softball hosted its Fork Cancer game which raised money for the American Cancer Society. Sheri threw a first pitch to her catcher daughter in Emma’s sophomore season when she was going through chemotherapy.
Nicholls pitcher Jackie Johnson allowed just two hits in four innings in the win, while Megan Landry earned her fifth save with three scoreless innings.