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Lady Demons, McNeese chosen to share Southland softball crown
Jan 25, 2014 | 169 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Highlighted by six preseason All-Southland Conference selections, the Northwestern State softball team has been chosen to share the 2014 crown with league foe McNeese State, as voted upon by head coaches and sports information directors, announced by the conference office Wednesday morning.

NSU received 77 points in the coaches’ poll and 69 points in the SID poll, while notching four first-place votes from the coaches and five from the SIDs. The Lady Demons return 11 letterwinners, eight starters and two pitchers, and lead all teams in the preseason polls with six selections, including first team preseason selections Brianna Rodriguez (first base), Brittany Virgoe (third base) and Kaylee Guidry (pitcher). Second team picks consist of Cali Burke (second base), Tara McKenney (shortstop) and Cassandra Barefield (catcher).

The Cowgirls claimed the regular-season championship and received 74 points in the coaches’ poll and 71 in the SID poll. Sam Houston earned third in both polls, followed by Central Arkansas, Southeastern, Lamar, Nicholls and Houston Baptist, respectively, to round out the top-eight.

Sam Houston placed five on the preseason teams, as McNeese and Houston Baptist claim three spots each, including Southland Newcomer of the Year Lauren Schwirtlich (HBU) on the first team.

The Lady Demons finished the 2013 regular season as the Southland Conference runner-up, and later claimed the conference tournament crown to earn their fourth trip to the NCAA regionals. The 40-15 overall record, 18-7 in the SLC, was noted as the best finish the program has had in over 10 years.

On top of earning the highest regular season finish (second), tournament seeding (second) and most Southland wins (18) since 2002, Northwestern State registered the highest winning percentage (.727) ever, longest win streak (11) since the 1998 season, fewest losses (15) since 1983 and the best 20-game start (16-4) since 1990.

Rodriguez earned first team All-Conference honors after leading the team and the league with 20 doubles, and ranks second in the program's individual season record book. The Rowlett, Texas, native also led the team with 46 RBI, another season record, ranking third, just ahead of Barefield with 45.

Rodriguez also made her way into the career book with 1,039 putouts in her three seasons as a Lady Demon, ranking third all-time.

Virgoe recorded a 12-game hitting streak at one point, landing her a spot on the All-SLC second team. Her 61 hits rank tied for second on the team, while her eight homers followed by team-leader Barefield (14).

Guidry (12-4) struck out 76 and allowed 90 hits in 98.1 innings while picking up All-Conference honors last season. Her 2.06 ERA was noted as second on the team.

Burke, who recorded the game-winning hit to send the Lady Demons to the NCAA tournament, recorded 46 hits and 19 RBI in 2013.

McKenney earned second team All-SLC for the second year in a row as she led the team with a .363 average and made marks in both record books at NSU. In the individual season book, McKenney ranks second in triples (seven) and tied for fifth in runs scored (41). Overall, the junior has collected 11 triples, sitting fourth in the all-time rankings.

McKenney recorded the longest hitting streak for the Lady Demons, putting the ball into play 13 games in a row beginning on Apr. 14 at Stephen F. Austin and ending May 11 against Sam Houston State.

Barefield earned her first All-Conference selection when she notched second team honors, finishing the season with 14 homers and a .638 slugging percentage, noted third and fourth in the individual season book, respectively. The Houston native currently sits tied for fifth in career homers (22).

The Lady Demons began official practice Jan. 13, and will open the season Feb. 7 against North Florida at the Troy Subway Invitational.
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