Cowgirls show poise

Cowgirls #4 slides in safely scoring during their Southland Conference Tournament matchup against Stephen F. Austin at Cowgirl Diamond in Lake Charles, La., Wednesday, May 9, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick HickmanRickHickmanPhotographer

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p class="p1"><strong>McNeese </strong><strong>8, </strong><strong>Stephen F. Austin </strong><strong>2</strong></p>” id=”38adf17f-1d11-4f6a-8cd8-1ce4c64edb32″ style-type=”fact” title=”FINAL” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p class="p2"><span class="s1"><strong>MSU </strong></span><strong>vs. Nicholls St.</strong><strong><br /></strong></p>” id=”41913879-e2a8-4312-9f7a-a98d42dccbf0″ style-type=”fact” title=”TODAY 11 A.M.” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

The third-seeded McNeese State softball team made a statement and moved within a win of the championship game of the Southland Conference Tournament with an 8-2 victory against No. 2 Stephen F. Austin Wednesday afternoon at Cowgirl Diamond.

The Cowgirls (38-19) slowly built a lead with at least one run in the second, third and fourth innings before running away from the Ladyjacks (31-21) with a four-run seventh inning that gave pitcher Caroline Settle (9-6, 3.81 ERA) all the room she needed to close the game out in the bottom frame.

“It’s just good to see our team perform on a good level,” said McNeese head coach James Landreneau. “We played some good defense; Caroline Settle did a really good job setting the tempo from the get go.”

Settle got the complete-game victory by giving up two earned runs on four hits with one walk.

“I knew coming into this game it was going to be a dog fight,” Settle said. “I just had to get myself up for it, and I knew if they hit it I’d have a defense behind me that would make plays.”

The Cowgirls got on the board first with an RBI single by Tayler Strother in the second inning, but that lead didn’t last long as SFA’s Margarita Corona hit a solo home run to tie the score in  the next frame.

Alexandria Saldivar then put a ball in play with the bases loaded, and an error led to two runs scoring, giving the Cowgirls a 3-1 lead in the third inning.

Once again, the Ladyjacks responded with a run to cut the Cowgirls’ lead to one, but Aubree Turbeville hit her second home run of the season to put the Cowgirls back up by two runs, a lead they would maintain until the seventh inning. 

“It’s extremely valuable when the bottom of the lineup gets going like that,” Saldivar said. “Both the hitters in front of, and behind me, I have 100 percent confidence that they will get a hit or bring me in.”

The Cowgirls put an exclamation mark on the victory with a four-run seventh inning capped by a three-run shot by Morgan Catron, her second homer of the tournament.

SFA starter Makayla Sikes (18-9, 2.20 ERA) in the circle, but she lasted three innings after giving up three runs on four hits. The Ladyjacks sent in Callee Guffey, who pitched the last four innings, giving up five earned runs on four hits.

The Cowgirls will play at 11 a.m. today when they take on top-seeded Nicholls State (39-13) for a guaranteed spot in Friday’s championship game.

The loser will play again at 4 p.m. in an elimination game against an opponent to be determined for a spot in the final.

The Colonels have won 12 straight, including a 7-4 win Wednesday. The Cowgirls won the season series 2-1 in games played April 13-14 in Lake Charles.

“We have to come in again, and on the offensive side, we’re going to have to execute to manufacture some runs,” Landreneau said. “They have a very good pitching staff, and they swing it well, too. With their offense and defense, it’s going to come down to execution.”

McNeese 8, Stephen F. Austin 2

MSU vs. Nicholls St.