Louisiana-Lafayette's Sara Corbello, a freshman from Barbe, is hitting .450 as the designated hitter for the Cajuns. (American Press Archives).
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 6:06 PM
For Sara Corbello, it is an early homecoming.
For the McNeese State softball team, it is another early measuring stick for a program in its second year on the rise.
Corbello, a freshman from Barbe, leads Louisiana-Lafayette into Cowgirl Diamond for a showdown tonight with McNeese State. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
Corbello is hitting a stout .450 as the designated hitter for the 12th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns, having played in all eight of their games. Lafayette has won seven of those, including six in a row.
McNeese also enters the game on a hot streak, having won three straight to improve to 8-4.
“We are going to have to bring our A game,” said McNeese State head coach Mike Smith. “We want to see where we stand on the national level.”
The Cowgirls have their own hot-hitting freshman to counter Corbello in Emily Vincent. The rookie from Sulphur is batting .526 with three homers and 14 RBIs in just 19 at bats. She is slugging at a 1.158 clip and has a .609 on base percentage. She also picked up her first career win on the mound over the weekend.
“Emily has gotten off to a quick start and gained some confidence,” Smith said. “She is a good athlete and has given us a big boost offensively.”
Playing the big girls has not been a problem for McNeese since Smith took over the program last season.
Included in their list of impressive victories over the last two years is a win over then No. 1 Arizona State last spring. However, consistent play has not always been the case for the Cowgirls.
“We have played to the level of our competition,” Smith said. “We have to learn how to take the intensity and focus we have against the ranked teams into all our games.”
As for tonight, Smith says his club is ready.
“They like these types of challenges,” he said.
McNeese will get challenged, as Corbello is just one of four Ragin’ Cajuns entering the game with a better than .400 average.
Sarah Draheim leads ULL with a .500 average, including three homers and 11 RBIs. Brianna Cherry has also driven in 11 while hitting at a .455 clip with two home runs. Shellie Landry is at .423. with a team-high 13 driven in with a pair of homers, as well.
A total of six Cajuns have homered with the team having blasted 10 already. As a club, Lafayette is hitting .365 and averaging better than nine runs a game with 76 total.
“They have been pounding the ball so far,” Smith said. “We are going to have to pitch to our strengths and their weaknesses. It would also help if we can take advantage of any mistakes they make.”
Smith is still undecided as to whom he will start against the Cajuns, or at least he is not saying.
Senior Meagan Bond and freshman Jamie Allred each have three victories for McNeese so far. Bond is 3-2 with a 0.69 ERA and a team-high 27 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. Allred is 3-1 with a 0.88 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 24 innings.
Sophomore Lilly Bianca (1-1, 1.51) is also a possibility.
Whichever way he goes, Smith knows this is a chance to play a ranked foe in front of the home crowd, which makes it an opportunity to show off his program.
“This is a big game for us,” Smith said. “We know what is at stake. We know they will have some of their fans in the stands. But it is also a chance for us to show our fans what we can do.”
UL-Lafayette comes into the game after posting a 4-0 record in their own tournament last weekend with two wins over both Mississippi Valley State and Texas State. The Lady Cajuns are led at the plate by Sarah Draheim’s .500 batting average. Draheim has a team-high three home runs and is tied for a team high 11 hits.
Jorday Wallace leads the Cajun pitching staff with a 5-0 record and a 0.50 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 28 innings.