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McNeese State freshman Jamie Allred (15-3) will start for the Cowgirls tonight against LSU. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

McNeese State freshman Jamie Allred (15-3) will start for the Cowgirls tonight against LSU. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Improved McNeese has LSU's attention

Last Modified: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 4:49 PM

By Albert Burford / American Press

When McNeese State visits Tiger Park today for a 6 p.m. matchup with LSU, the Cowgirls softball team won’t be viewed as the underdogs they once were.

McNeese has displayed a penchant for upsetting big conference schools over the last two seasons, which includes a 3-2 record against the Top 25 and a 2-1 mark against Southeastern Conference competition this season.

The Cowgirls (27-10) split a doubleheader against the Tigers (22-16) in a fall exhibition.

“The respect is there,” said McNeese coach Mike Smith. “Our players have earned that. Our players have bought into that process and they know they can compete with anybody. In the back of (LSU’s) heads, they know what type of team is going to be coming in to play.”

LSU was ranked for much of the season, but a 2-9 stretch through March SEC play set the Tigers back. Now they are receiving votes in both national polls and are No. 25 in Rating Percentage Index.

The game comes at a good time for McNeese, as the Cowgirls have won 11 of their last 12 games, including six consecutive. McNeese also swept this week’s Southland honors, with Alanna DiVittorio named hitter of the week and Jamie Allred as pitcher of the week.

The Cowgirls are on top of the Southland standings, but Smith said he knows LSU will also be confident entering tonight’s game.

“LSU just came off a big weekend for them in the SEC taking two of three from No. 2 Tennessee, who was right at the top,” Smith said. “They’re playing with some swag right now. Fortunately or unfortunately, we get to go into their place and try to play them.”

The Cowgirls are 2-25 all-time against the Tigers, but the two wins came recently. McNeese last topped LSU in 2010 with a 3-0 win when the Tigers were ranked No. 16. Before that, McNeese beat a No. 19 LSU team 4-3 in Baton Rouge in 2009.

LSU has won the last seven meetings.

Smith said his team keeps in mind that rankings and conference affiliation go out the window once the first pitch is thrown.

“They’re the big dogs if we make them the big dogs,” he said. “We preach as a coaching staff it’s not about what’s across the front of the chest. They put their pants on the same way. We just go at it and play the game of softball. They may have a little bit more than us, a little bit better facility than us, a budget that’s bigger than ours, but we’re playing the same game.”

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