McNeese second baseman Taylor Goree leaps for a ball as it hops through the infield for a base hit in a recent NCAA softball game against University of Louisiana at Lafayette. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:13 PMMcNeese State waited and waited, but didn’t hear its name called for the field of 64 in the NCAA softball tournament.
The Cowgirls claimed the regular season Southland Conference title, but failed to win the league tournament and gain an automatic regional bid for the second consecutive season.
McNeese (40-17) won 40 games for the first time in school history this season.
After losing to Northwestern State early Saturday in the league tournament, the Cowgirls beat Stephen F. Austin 9-0 in a game that finished after 11 p.m. Saturday night.
That victory earned McNeese another chance at the Lady Demons with an early morning start at 8 a.m. Sunday. The Cowgirls would have to beat the Lady Demons twice in a row to win the conference championship.
Northwestern State made quick work of McNeese on Sunday, winning 11-0 in five innings to claim their second straight conference tournament crown.
The conference tournament loss didn’t necessarily mean McNeese would miss out on an NCAA regional bid, though.
In the latest NCAA RPI ranking released on May 5, McNeese was No. 39. The Cowgirls finished on top of the Southland by 4.5 games and boosted their national profile with wins against tournament teams Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Texas A&M and LSU.
All of that put the Cowgirls on the bubble and gave them a shot at becoming the first Southland team to be selected for an at-large bid since 1997.
“We put this schedule together knowing that it should help us in the eyes of the committee,” head coach Mike Smith said in a news release. “At one point this season, we had the top ranked non-conference schedule in the country and it’s still ranked in the top 10. …”There’s no doubt we have one of, if not the best non-conference schedule for a mid-major school.”