Cowgirls in first-place logjam

McNeese State’s Justyce McClain is second in the Southland Conference in hitting with a .432 average and 20 stolen bases.

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{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>McNeese at Lamar, </strong></span><strong>5 p.m. (DH)</strong></p>” id=”c47fcf54-dbae-46ed-ac0a-7b5fabc83183″ style-type=”fact” title=”TONIGHT” type=”relcontent”}}

After suffering a 5-3 midweek loss at home to Louisiana-Lafayette, the McNeese State softball team will try to continue its climb up the Southland Conference standings when it travels to Lamar for a series beginning at 5 p.m. today with a doubleheader.

The Cowgirls (30-16, 12-6 SLC) travel to Lamar (24-21, 9-9) in a four-way tie for first place in the league standings with Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals enter the three-game series in desperate need of a good weekend as they are tied with Sam Houston State for the eighth and final SLC Tournament spot.

“It’s going to be a tough, tough series to play,” said McNeese head coach James Landreneau. “(Lamar head coach Holly Bruder) always does a really good job of getting her kids ready to play, and their fans are very passionate and loud. It’s going to be a tough series. We have to make sure we’re up for it.”

Landreneau said the Cowgirls had a good conversation about Wednesday night’s loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns and he feel their mind-set is in the right place heading into the series.

The Cowgirls continue to pressure teams with their stacked lineup that starts with the dangerous trio of Justyce McClain, Erika Piancastelli and Morgan Catron.

McClain is No. 2 in the conference with a .432 batting average with a league-high 64 hits and 20 stolen bases.

Piancastelli hit her 15th home run of the season against ULL and she also leads the team with 14 doubles, 45 RBIs and 38 walks. Catron is batting .328 with 10 home runs, 39 RBIs and 41 hits.

Alexaandria Saldivar and Lauren Brown have seen an uptick in success at the plate, with Saldivar hitting .319 and Brown batting .311 with 13 stolen bases.

Alexsandra Flores (14-7, 2.66 ERA) anchors McNeese in the circle with 66 strikeouts in 1181⁄3 innings. Aside from Caroline Settle (7-6, 4.32), Amber Coons (5-2, 3.75) and Ashley Koncir (4-1, 4.33) have seen their workload increase as the season has progressed.

“I think our players understand the importance of every series and every game we play,” Landrneau said. “We can’t downplay anything. It comes down to the process and what it takes for us to play well. I like our team when we play fundamentally sound, we’re aggressive and we get after it.”

The Cardinals are led by Savana Guidry (.340) with 50 hits and 13 stolen bases. They also have a dangerous power hitter in Kelly Meeuwson, who has a team-high seven homers.

Laura Napoli (12-11, 3.01) does most of the work in the circle for Lamar in 1461⁄3 innings of work. The Cardinals will likely use Taylor Gruell (7-6, 3.85) as a starter in one of the three games.

McNeese at Lamar, 5 p.m. (DH)

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