Feb. 28, 2013
NATCHITOCHES, La. - Louisiana Tech heads an hour south this weekend to compete in the Natchitoches Historic Development Commission Lady Demon Classic hosted by Northwestern State on Friday through Sunday.
The Lady Techsters will play five games in three days, starting with Friday's matchups against UL-Monroe at 2:30 p.m. Tech will then play twice on Saturday with a 3 p.m. game against the host Demons and a 5:30 p.m. contest against UL-Monroe. Sunday's schedule includes a 10 a.m. game against Alcorn State and a 12:30 p.m. game against Northwestern State.
Head coach Mark Montgomery's squad has competed the first three weeks of the season minus the service of first team all-Western Athletic Conference performer Melanie Goff as well as last year's starting third baseman Hailey Winter, who have both been sidelined for different reasons.
However, this week both Goff and Winter will back at full strength, a benefit that is not lost on Montgomery who has seen his team start 5-8 this year with six losses coming by two runs or less or in extra innings.
"I'm extremely excited that we get to see Northwestern State again, and to see them with a little knowledge of who they are and who we are and with an idea of what we need to do differently," Montgomery said. "As the team continues to grow, we will be fine. This weekend is another chance for us to grow as a team.
"Certainly having both Mel and Hailey back with us does nothing but make us better. Mel gives us another power hitter in the lineup. It allows us to move the four-hole hitter to the five hole, and the five-hole hitter to the six hole and on down the lineup. She also will give us another option in the circle. Hailey was back last week, but she really hadn't had a full week of practice under her belt like she has gotten this week. She can definitely help us defensively."
"A lot of things went against us, but again, we did a lot of good things," Montgomery said. "We learned some more things about our team. Despite the losses, and I hate to lose, at end of day I feel like we are very much on track."
In the circle, Tech could throw as many as five different pitchers this weekend. Senior Michelle Jones (3-4, 2.39 ERA) continues to anchor the LA Tech staff, allowing opponents to bat only .198 against her through 55.2 innings of work thus far this season. Erin Kipp (2-2, 5.73), Janna Frandrup (0-2, 8.53), Anna Cross (0-0, 7.00) and Goff should all see time as well.
Montgomery said that he is excited to see Cross again in the circle. The freshman has started every game at shortstop this year for LA Tech, but got her collegiate debut in the circle in an 11-3 loss to Northwestern State last weekend.
"I think Anna has blossomed quicker at shortstop then we expected," Montgomery said. "That has allowed us to advance (the timeline we had set for using her in the circle). Last week we got an opportunity to use her in an inning in a situation where there wasn't a lot of pressure. It helped. It was a situation where she did what we expected. She had a couple of strikeouts and a weak ground ball and she walked some folks. We just need to get her more comfortable in the circle."
Offensively, the Lady Techsters are sporting some impressive numbers. As a team, Tech is batting .283 with more walks (44) than strikeouts (40). The Lady Techsters have also successfully stolen 46 bases in 49 tries with 11 different players swiping at least one base this year.
Tech's one struggle has been driving in runners, in large part due to recording only 17 extra base hits in 13 games.
"I think that will happen," Montgomery said. "We are obviously doing a lot of good things to get on base and stealing a lot of bases to put us in an advantageous position. We just aren't getting those clutch hits. As a coach you don't dwell on that that. It's like in basketball, you tell shooters to keep shooting.
"We have a good approach at the plate. I don't think there is any question about that. I think the approach is solid and the at bats are solid. There are just one or two items that need to click and once they do, we will be right there. We are close."
Freshman Kristen Miles leads Tech in batting average (.425), hits (17), runs (9) and stolen bases (9) this year. However, she isn't the only productive Tech player. Erin Kipp (.412, 5 doubles, 9 RBI, 6-6 SB), Cross (.323, 8 runs, 6 RBI, 8-8 SB), Alayna Kipp (.313, 2 RBI, 3-3 SB), Meghan Knowles (.297, 6 runs, 2 RBI), Janna Frandrup (.293, 4 RBI) and Amanda Krueger (.263, 8 runs, 2 HR, 9 RBI) have also had their share of production.
Northwestern State enters the weekend off to one of its best starts in school history as the Lady Demons are 11-2 overall and bring an eight-game winning streak into the tournament. UL-Monroe is 7-7 overall, but the Warhawks have already posted impressive wins over Arkansas and BYU this year, Alcorn State enters the weekend with a 1-8 record with two of those losses coming to LA Tech in Lake Charles two weekends ago.
Live stats will be available for every game this weekend and can be accessed through the Northwestern State website at www.nsudemons.com. In-game twitter updates can also be accessed by following @LATechSB. To become a fan of the Lady Techster Softball page, fans can go to http://www.facebook.com/LouisianaTechSoftball?ref=ts&fref=ts.