Cowgirls squeeze past Colonels

<p>McNeese’s Lauren Brown drives in a run during the third game of their Southland Conference series at Cowgirl Diamond in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, April 14, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)</p>Rick HickmanRickHickmanPhotographer
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<p class="p1">The McNeese State softball team won a pivotal series with Nicholls State Saturday with a 7-3 victory in which it grinded out runs throughout the game.

<p class="p3">The Cowgirls (30-15, 12-6 Southland Conference) moved into a tie for second place with the Colonels (27-13, 12-6) in the league standings with three series left before the SLC Tournament.

<p class="p3">“I thought our kids really bounced back (from a 10-2 loss in Game 1 Friday) like I expect them to,” said McNeese head coach James Landreneau. “They’re resilient. They’ve always been able to overcome and get themselves back in games and series. This weekend was a total team effort.”

<p class="p3">McNeese took control  and put pressure on the Colonels with two runs in the first inning.

<p class="p3">Justyce McClain got things started with a leadoff triple before scoring on a Morgan Catron single to left field. Two batters later, Lauren Brown scored Erika Piancastelli on a safety squeeze bunt to put the Cowgirls ahead by two after one inning.

<p class="p3">The squeeze was the first of two McNeese executed as the Cowgirls played small ball all game to scratch out runs.

<p class="p3">“Plays like that add to our game,” McClain said. “We don’t always have to hit the long ball and (we have) other players to go to. We just do what we have to in the moment. … We do whatever comes to us and whatever the situation calls for.”

<p class="p3">The Colonels tied the score in the second inning with a home run by Moriah Strother and an RBI single from Emma Holland that scored Samantha Dares.

<p class="p3">But the Cowgirls scored at least a run in each remaining inning to slowly inch away and earn the series-clinching victory.

<p class="p3">Back-to-back two-out hits by Brown and Brenique Wright scored a run in the third, a Catron double down the left-field line scored McClain from second base in the fourth and Turbeville executed a squeeze bunt to score Brown in the fifth.

<p class="p3">McNeese scored two more in the sixth off a Taylor Edwards RBI single and a Brown sacrifice fly.

<p class="p3">The Colonels attempted a come back in the seventh as Kelsey Miller hit an inside-the-park home run to cut McNeese’s lead to four runs. The home run was Nicholls’ 10th of the series.

<p class="p3">But after a 27-minute rain delay, Alexsandra Flores (14-7, 2.68 ERA) regrouped and finished the game for the complete-game victory.

<p class="p3">Nicholls starting pitcher Megan Landry (15-7, 1.87) took the loss after going 32⁄3 innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits.

<p class="p3">“It feels good (to win the series), but we don’t want to think about it too much,” Catron said. “We have to forget and bounce back. We play (Louisiana-Lafayette) on Tuesday so we have to bounce back.”

<p class="p3">The Cowgirls will return to Cowgirl Diamond at 6 p.m. Wednesday when they host the Ragin’ Cajuns in their final midweek game of the season.

<p class="p1" style="text-align: center;"><strong>McNeese </strong><strong>7, </strong><strong>Nicholls St. </strong><strong>3</strong>

<p class="p2"><strong>Wednesday </strong>6 p.m.

<p class="p2"><strong>vs. UL-Lafayette</strong>