Island getaway for Cowgirls

Published 11:28 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

Two days after missing a chance to pull off a big upset, the Cowgirls have an opportunity to keep control of the Southland Conference softball race.

Wednesday night McNeese State came up short against Louisiana-Lafayette, falling 5-4 in Lake Charles as the winning runs were left on base at game’s end.

Now the Cowgirls must turn their attention to the present and forget about the past.

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“We have to refocus quickly and think about the weekend,” said McNeese head coach James Landreneau. “I like the way we fought back but we face a really good Corpus Christi team this weekend.”

The Cowgirls (33-16, 17-1) have a lot to play for as they hit the road for the final time in league play. They hold a three-game lead over Southeastern as they attempt to win their third-straight regular season conference championship. 

The two teams will close SLC play the following weekend at Cowgirl Diamond. Southeastern hosts Lamar in a series starting today.

McNeese will get an early start to the weekend as they open the three-game set with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (20-16, 8-10) with a doubleheader Friday at noon.

“It is a quick turnaround for us and a long trip,” said Landreneau. “Corpus has a team that can cause you problems. We have to play clean.”

The Cowgirls didn’t do that against No. 19 ULL, making three errors that led to two unearned runs that proved to be the difference in the game. McNeese took a 3-0 lead early before giving the Cajuns opportunities to rally.

“When you are playing a team like Lafayette, you have to get off the field,” said Landreneau. “Would like to have those plays back. You have to play good teams clean.”

The loss snapped McNeese’s 10-game winning streak.

“We have a couple of things still to fix,” said Landreneau. “I’m interested to see how our kids respond. We understand what we have to do.”

McNeese will likely face Islander ace Primrose Aholelei, last year’s Southland Pitcher of the Year. Aholelei (14-8) is third in the league in wins and first in strikeouts with 166 in 142⅓ innings. She has a 2.16 earned run average.

“She is a very good pitcher,” said Landreneau. “We are going to have to try and put the ball in play and get traffic on the bases.”

Aholelei is expected to start the series opener and the third game on Saturday.

McNeese will counter with senior right-hander Shaelyn Sanders (16-7), who is tied for the league lead in wins with Southeastern’s Cera Blanchard. Sanders is second in strikeouts to Aholelei with 121 with an ERA of 1.93. 

Offensively, McNeese has six players hitting over .295 with four above .300. Freshman Alexis Dibbley leads the way at .361, good for seventh in the league. Corine Poncho tops the power numbers in the Southland with 15 home runs.

The Cowgirls’ magic number for clinching the title and top seed in the upcoming postseason tournament is four.