Northwestern State starts tough week by hosting Louisiana Tech on Wednesday

Freshman first baseman Riley Cantrell supplied two home runs and six RBIs as the Lady Demons swept Abilene Christian this past weekend. She's been a key in NSU's middle part of the order as the Lady Demons prepare to host Louisiana Tech on Wednesday. Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services

Five-game winning streaks and North Louisiana pride are on the line Wednesday when Northwestern State softball hosts Louisiana Tech in a 6 p.m. contest at Lady Demon Diamond.


NSU’s (13-13) streak has all come in Southland Conference play as the Lady Demons bounced back from being no-hit in the Sam Houston State opener to win the final two games before sweeping Abilene Christian at home.


The Lady Techsters (20-7) are having one of their best starts under eighth-year coach Mark Montgomery as Tech returns a bevy of upperclassmen, including reigning Conference USA Pitcher of the Year Preslee Gallaway and Hitter of the Year Morgan Turkoly.


La. Tech snapped a four-game losing streak by winning its last five, including a sweep at UAB to start league play.


“Louisiana Tech is always a good team, and they are having a great year so far,” said NSU coach Donald Pickett. “We have to continue to play well and compete.


“It’s a great thing both ways to get quality nonconference games in midweeks with an opponent who is close to us. It makes each team better.”


NSU’s five-game winning streak snapped a seven-game skid which included losses to No. 10 LSU and No. 12 Arkansas.


The Lady Demons offense has revved up in the winning streak, including having sophomore designated player E.C. Delafield capture SLC Hitter of the Week honors for her efforts against ACU.


Delafield went 5-for-8 with her first two career home runs, a triple and six RBIs.


“I just knew that when I got the opportunity again, I would have to take advantage,” said Delafield, who also had a pitching win in the circle at SHSU. “I’ve been coming up here, getting extra work off the tee and hitting more front toss.


“I’ve been feeling the bat and getting it done.”


Delafield, who has been elevated to the No. 5 hole for the last six games, is part of a No. 5-No. 7 section of the order that’s recently paid big dividends.


Against ACU, that portion of the lineup accounted for 14 of NSU’s 22 RBIs in three games. Delafield and Cantrell each had six RBIs and two home runs, and No. 7 batter Codi Vernace hit a two-run home run in the finale.


Add in RBIs from No. 8 hitter Maggie Black and No. 9 Nikki Skerlong, and the bottom five batters accounted for 16 of NSU’s 22 RBIs this past weekend.


“It helps with Delafield being a left-handed hitter, getting us another lefty in the batting order,” Pickett said. “The bottom of the lineup helped us a lot, and it continues to put pressure on pitchers every inning when you have the ability to score no matter who is up.


“Everybody has been buying into their approaches, and they’ve been able to execute.”


The Lady Techsters have won the last three matchups in the series, including their first series sweep in 2018 since Pickett’s first season in 2009.


La. Tech won 9-4 in Natchitoches and 9-7 in Ruston in 2018.


Before Tech’s three-game winning streak in the series, NSU had won six of seven meetings, including sweeps in 2014 and 2015.


Tech leads the all-time series 55-47.