Softball set to play challenging 2021 schedule

NATCHITOCHES — The Northwestern State softball team’s longer-than-usual offseason will come to an end Feb. 12. That’s the date when the Lady Demons begin their 2021 season.

The opener against UT Martin — held at the Lady Demon Diamond with the first pitch set for 1:30 p.m. — is part of the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission Lady Demon Classic. The round-robin tournament, which will conclude Feb. 14, also includes Arkansas Pine Bluff and Evansville.

The majority of the remaining non-conference slate will include three tournaments. NSU will participate in the Baylor Getterman Classic from Feb. 19-21, the South Alabama Jaguar Classic from Feb. 26-28 and the Arkansas WoooPig Classic from March 5-7.

Each of the three non-conference tournaments encompasses at least one team from the power-five conferences. That will afford the Lady Demons the opportunity to see how they stack up against the very best in the country.

“It’s going to be a pretty challenging schedule,” head coach Donald Pickett said. “We’ve got a really good team. I think we’ve got a team that’s going to answer the challenge, and we ready to go. That challenging schedule is something we needed this year to prepare us for our conference season and on down the road. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to seeing how our schedule pushes our team.”

NSU opens Southland Conference play with a road test at Nicholls on March 12-13. The Colonels finished the 2019 season — the most recent full season to be completed — second in the final Southland standings. Northwestern State also travels to Incarnate Word, Lamar, Stephen F. Austin and McNeese in conference action.

Sam Houston won the league in 2019, and the Bearcats visit Natchitoches on April 23-24. That series is one of four home-conference series. That list also consists of Houston Baptist, Central Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana.

“We’ve got a tough conference schedule with some of the stronger teams,” Pickett said. “We are going to have to take it one pitch at a time and one game at a time. We need to make sure we are ready to go and play because our conference is going to be tough, and the schedule we have is going to be pretty difficult.”

The Southland Conference Tournament is set for May 13-15 in Hammond. The NCAA Regional will begin May 21.

The Lady Demons finished the 2019 season with a 30-27 overall record and 15-12 in league, which positioned them sixth in the final conference standings. NSU completed the 2020 season at 15-7 and 3-0 in conference play. Northwestern State swept Sam Houston in a just prior to the season being canceled due to COVID-19.