Northwestern State rounding into form with season-opener at Baylor less than two weeks away

Josh Goff/Central Arkansas
Josh Goff/Central Arkansas(KALB)
Published: Jan. 29, 2018 at 10:28 PM CST
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Northwestern State softball is less than two weeks away from starting its season at Baylor, and a young-ish Lady Demons team is rounding into regular-season form.

Just five upperclassmen might give one pause to think NSU can contend near the top of the Southland Conference, but the Lady Demons return healthy players who’ve played big roles and others with key experience.

Pitchers Micaela Bouvier and Mikayla Brown lead a pitching staff that features six viable arms, hopefully eliminating depth issues in past seasons.

Bouvier and Brown were named first-team All-SLC in 2015 with Brown taking home pitcher of the year honors as freshman.

Both have overcome various injuries since that time, but the pair is its healthiest since that 2015 season.

“I’m so excited to be back out there throwing,” said the senior Bouvier, who’s battled shoulder issues in 2016 and 2017. “It’s been a long two years, but I’m excited to get back out there and do what I’ve been doing my whole life.

“I try to have the same approach every season and not change it since it’s my last year, but I do want to go out with a bang and support my team in the circle.”

NSU plays Baylor in a rare three-game series at a Power Five school, particularly a Bears program that made the Women’s College World Series this past season.

The offensive lineup will likely feature just two players who have been in the program multiple seasons, but four rising sophomores started at least 25 games as freshmen with another two rookies logging at least 17 starts.

Record holders like Kellye Kincannon and Brittney Jones won’t appear on an NSU lineup card this season, but head coach Donald Pickett expects the experience gained this past season will be a boon for a 10-member sophomore class.

“It definitely helps with experience, especially in situations this fall when we had seven or eight freshmen and sophomores playing,” Pickett said. “The sophomores did get a lot of experience, and hopefully we won’t be as young as what our roster is.

“There’s a positive from last year, and they won some big games down the stretch to get into the (Southland Conference) tournament and then won a game in the tournament. I like the way they finished the season down the stretch.”

One familiar face -- senior outfielder Sidney Salmans -- will be in the leadoff position, a spot she’s held for the vast majority of her first three seasons.

“The big thing I’m trying to do as a senior whose played all four years is trying to lead on and off the field,” said Salmans, who was voted second-team All-Academic in the SLC. “I want to be a role model for the younger girls.

“There definitely is a more youthful energy this year, and we’re working on communication and how we work together on the field. We’re continuing to get to know each other and feeling each other out in each position.”