UIW stuns Cowgirls

Published 2:10 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

If the Cowgirls are going to make history they will have to do it the hard way.

Looking to become the first team to win four straight Southland Conference Tournament championships, top-seeded McNeese State was knocked into the losers bracket today.

Fourth-seeded Incarnate Word stunned the Cowgirls 3-2 in the McNeese opener of the double-elimination tourney at North Oaks Park in Hammond. McNeese (38-19) will play the late game against No. 7 Houston Christian tonight at 6:30 p.m.

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The winner will move on to Thursday’s rounds while the loser will go home. McNeese swept HCU during the regular season.

The loss is the first in five years at the tournament for the Cowgirls, who also saw their 10-game win streak in the tournament end. McNeese had beaten the Cardinals seven straight heading into the game and 21 of the last 22 meetings.

The win increases the Cardinals’ program record to 33 victories as they head into Thursday’s action.

Helped by a McNeese error, UIW scored twice on a sacrifice fly in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie. The eventual winning run scored when the throw home bounced away from freshman catcher Bella Perez, allowing Jillian Guiterrez to score all the way from second.

Guiterrez had doubled one out after SLC Player of the Year Victoria Altamirano led the sixth off with a single to set up the runs.

McNeese tried to rally with two outs in the bottom of the seventh as Reese Reyna singled and Mariana Torres drove her home with a double down the left-field line. But freshman Brilee Ford, playing third for the injured Rylie Bouvier, rolled out to end the game. 

Ford tied the game in the fifth with her first career home run after Altamirano opened the scoring with her 12th of the season in the first,

Altamirano’s shot to center hit off the top of the fence and carried over to give the Cards the early lead. It was the first earned run off McNeese starter and SLC Pitcher of the Year Shaeyln Sanders in 23⅓ innings of league play.

Sanders allowed five hits while striking out six and walking one while going the distance. Guiterrez and Altamirano each had two hits against the senior right-hander.

UIW starter Samantha Portillo (10-6) also allowed just five hits while picking up her second win of the tournament. Tuesday the Cardinals beat Lamar 5-4 in eight innings.

Portillo did walk three in the first two innings but wiggled out of trouble both times 

McNeese had a chance to tie the game in the fourth when Corine Poncho lined a rocket off the wall in left two feet below, going out for a leadoff double. She would steal the third one-out later but was thrown out at home trying to score on Perez’s fly to center field.

Poncho was thrown out fairly easily by Dariane Cram to end the inning.

McNeese will now have to win five games in roughly a 48-hour period to earn its fourth straight title and trip to the NCAA Tournament.