Cowgirls reach first regional finals in program history

Published 12:34 am Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Cowgirls are still alive, advancing to the final round of a NCAA tournament regional for the first time in program history with a 3-1 win over Notre Dame.

McNeese (40-19) will play Northwestern (42-10) at 3 p.m. today, needing to win to force a winner-take-all game.

A win in either game by Northwestern makes the Wildcats regional champs. McNeese must win twice.

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Ashley Vallejo threw a complete game and Adriana Ramirez launched a homer to left field to put the Cowgirls ahead for good in the fifth inning.

“Before the game coach told us we were here to have fun and play for each other,” Ramirez said. “Before I stepped into the box I was like OK, just relax, have fun, let loose and that’s what happened.

“This win is very rewarding, but it’s not over yet. The job’s not done.”

McNeese added a second run in the fifth when Toni Perrin singled and scored on an error.

The Cowgirls added a run in the sixth. Kaylee Lopez led off with a single. Pinch runner Erin Ardoin advanced to second on a bunt by Gracie Devall, then stole third and scored when the throw went into left field.

Notre Dame (40-12) scored its lone run on a sole homer by Joley Mitchell in the top of the seventh. The Irish had a runner on with one out in the seventh, but Josie Willingham made a leaping catch at shortstop for the second out and Vallejo forced a grounder to end the game.

In the fifth inning, the Cowgirls turned a triple play. With runners on first and second, Toni Perrin made a running catch in deep center, then threw to Willingham who threw to second base for the second out. Reese Reyna thew to Crislyne Moreno at first for the final out.

“That changed the momentum,” McNeese head coach James Landreneau said. “They had a chance to make something happen. Then Adriana put a big swing on the ball to get us going.”

Vallejo allowed five hits and a walk. Ramirez, Reyna and Perrin had two hits each.

Both of Notre Dame’s losses in the regional came to McNeese, which beat the Fighting Irish 11-1 in the first round.

Northwestern beat McNeese 17-3 earlier Saturday.

McNeese had never won two games at a regional. The Cowgirls now have six wins over their past five NCAA appearances.

Northwestern 17, Cowgirls 3

National seed and Evanston Regional host Northwestern flexed its muscle Saturday in a 17-3, five-inning mercy-rule win over McNeese State, snapping the Southland Conference champions’ eight-game win streak.

Northwestern (42-10) advanced to today’s regional final, when it will have two chances to win the regional. The Wildcats, seeded ninth nationally, are the lone undefeated team in the regional.

After the start of the game was delayed almost 4 hours due to rain, Northwestern showed no ill effects, scoring six runs over the first three innings to take command.

The Wildcats scored on a Jordyn Rudd single in the first, a Hannah Cady fielder’s choice, wild pitch and double steal in the second, and a Nikki Cuchran solo home run and Sydney Supple RBI double in the third inning.

“We had some chances to get out of some innings and didn’t,” McNeese head coach James Landreneau said. “You turn over a powerful lineup like that too many times, give them too many opportunities and they make you pay for it. We have to do a better job of playing clean.”

The Cowgirls committed three errors.

“Any time you play a team like that and make mistakes, they will make you pay for it, and they did that,” Landreneau said. “Now we have to let it go. The biggest thing is can we move on and get ready for the next game.”

McNeese briefly made things interesting in the bottom of the third inning. Reese Reyna led off with a double off the center-field wall. Toni Perrin and Josie Willingham reached on infield singles. After one out, Jil Poullard doubled to center, scoring Reyna, Perrin and Willingham to get the Cowgirls within 6-3.

Northwestern blew the game open with a nine-run fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run homer by Rudd and two-run double by Rachel Lewis.

Danielle Williams (28-4) earned the win, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out four. Ashley Vallejo (17-8) took the loss, ending her streak of seven consecutive wins.

Skyler Shellmyer had four hits and four RBIs for Northwestern. Rudd, Cuchran, Cady and Supple added two hits each.

Crislyne Moreno and Alayis Seneca each had a hit for McNeese.