Fueling the Cowgirls, Steczo, Ramirez work their way into lineup

Heading into the final week of the regular season, the McNeese Cowgirls are alone atop the Southland Conference standings, a game ahead of Southeastern Louisiana and two ahead of Northwestern State.

The Cowgirls have won 22 of their last 26 games. As the season has gone on, the team’s group of reserves have become more productive and helped fuel the team’s late season surge.

Leading the way are a pair of seniors, first baseman Tiffany Steczo and catcher Adriana Ramirez.

Over the past eight games, Ramirez is hitting .333 with 3 runs, 4 RBI, two home runs and three walks.

“I just trust in my process,” she said. “I get opportunities so I want to take advantage of them. At practice, I treat every day as one of my opportunities and go 110 percent, give all my effort.”

Cowgirls head coach James Landreneau said Ramirez sets an example for younger players with her attitude and work ethic.

“Adriana is a good example for young players on how to work while you wait,” he said. “Even though she has not been in the lineup every day, she is here hitting every day. She is here before everyone else and she stays after to hit some more. It doesn’t matter if she plays or not, you can’t tell the difference.

“Some people only work hard when they play. Adriana stays ready for that opportunity. She works her butt off. We need to commend players that work while they wait. She’s not in the office complaining about playing time, she is out there working.”

Ramirez said she was never tempted to leave McNeese in search of more playing time.

“McNeese is not an easy program to play, that’s why I chose to come here,” she said. “I wanted to be challenged, I did not want to go somewhere where I would just be given playing time. I wanted to earn my respect and earn my spot.”

Steczo has surged over the past two weeks, raising her batting average from .143 to 296. In the last eight games, she is hitting .462 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI.

Even when not starting, Steczo works in a few mental at-bats to make sure she’s ready when her number is called.

“I’ll pick out a right-handed hitter that is in the lineup and take my mental at-bats when they are at the plate,” she said. “I’ll go through my routine when they are in the box. On each pitch I’ll do my stride and try to get the timing of each pitch.

“When I’m called on I’ll feel like I’ve had a couple of at-bats already.”

Steczo said the team’s chemistry is so strong that even players competing for playing time support each other.

“When I go in everyone is cheering and going crazy, even if it is the player that I am in for,” she said. “They still have my back.”

Steczo said camaraderie among teammates has been the best part of her stay at McNeese.

“It has been like having a group of 25 sisters every year. It’s nice to have someone you can go to on a good day or bad day. (Senior outfielder) Toni Perrin has been someone I can count on. Brianna Santos and I have gotten along like bread and butter.”

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