Perez powers Cowgirls

Published 8:49 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

When the season began Bella Perez wasn’t sure how much she would play.

As a freshman, she was behind senior catcher Emily Phillips. But fate had a different plan.

Phillips injured her foot and Perez took over behind the plate for McNeese State. Last weekend she came up big and Friday night she came up even bigger.

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Perez went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and drove in a career-high five runs as the Cowgirls toppled Houston Christian 8-0 in the first of a three-game series in Lake Charles.

Perez drove in two in the first with a double off the wall in left, another with a single in the third and then her final pair with another double in the fifth.

“I thought it was gone,” Perez said of her last blast to the gap in left-center. “I’m getting comfortable. My teammates have made it easy for me.”

She scored the final run of the game on Reese Reyna’s single, ending the game early by the run rule.

The victory was the eighth straight for the Cowgirls, who improved to 31-15, 15-1 in the Southland Conference. It was also their 14th straight in league play and 16th in their last 18 overall.

Just as important, the Cowgirls picked up a half-game on second-place Southeastern, which split a doubleheader at Nicholls, losing the nightcap 4-3. That gives McNeese a 1½ game lead.

McNeese will play HCU in a doubleheader today at noon with Southeastern back at Nicholls for one game. The Cowgirls moved the game up an hour in case of weather later Saturday afternoon.

“We have to have a short memory and be ready for tomorrow,” said McNeese head coach James Landreneau. 

McNeese took control with three runs in the first off HCU starter Ronni Grofman. The big hit was Perez’s two-out shot that gave the Cowgirls a 3-0 lead. The Cowgirls then scored two more with two out in the third with Perez driving in the first of those.

“Three two-out hits was big,” said Landreneau. “Today we got traffic on base and got them in.”

Grofman (5-5) went the distance in the loss as the Huskies fell to 17-22, 4-12.

Another freshman, Alexis Dibbley, had a pair of doubles while Reyna finished with two hits as well for McNeese.

Cowgirl starter Shaelyn Sanders improved to 15-7, allowing five hits and walking one while also going the distance.