Resilient Cowgirls look forward to ’22, build foundation for continued success
A season filled with unprecedented adversity ended on a good note for the McNeese State softball team.
McNeese won the Southland Conference Tournament to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament then went 1-2 at the Baton Rouge Regional.
Head coach James Landreneau said he liked the way his team fought through adversity on and off the field.
“We showed a ton of resiliency this year,” he said. “I like the fight our kids had.
“Like any competitive coach in the country, you want to continue to play, at least make it to the final of the regionals, but all in all it was a good season. It was a tough season, but that goes with the territory of what we went through this year. It’s something to build on. We had some young kids that played well. We had outstanding leadership with our senior class; they carried us through tough times and a tough schedule.”
Landreneau said the Cowgirls never felt overwhelmed by the off-field disasters or a 3-12 start to the season.
“Our kids buy in, there is a ‘no-victims’ mentality here. You walk in the locker room every day and it’s ‘this is what happened, how are we going to overcome it?’ I think it is a great life lesson. It prepares people for life, that is what athletics does.
“To play the schedule we had this season, with the lack of being able to prepare preseason was extremely challenging, but if you were in the locker room you’d never know. Like I told the kids, they made everyone they came into contact with life better and definitely set a standard for how to handle adversity.”
A strong second half of the season included an undefeated run through the conference tournament.
“I’m happy for the kids,” he said. “You want those seniors to go out with some kind of a championship.
“I felt like they had worked at that kind of level. I was happy for the community. After the tournament we saw how many people were generally happy to have success in the area. It was great to see the reward, see the look on our kids’ faces when they were celebrating.”
The Cowgirls will have some voids to fill with the loss of a senior class that included starting pitcher Jenna Edwards, middle infielders Cori McCrary and Tayler Strother and center fielder Toni Perrin.
Back to lead the way will be pitcher Whitney Tate, catcher Chloe Gomez, third baseman Haylee Brinlee and outfielders Alayis Seneca and Jil Poullard. Kaylee Lopez closed the season on a tear.
“She hit over .700 in the regional, went 7-for-8 over the two games and finished with an 18-game hitting streak,” Landreneau said. “We always felt she was a good hitter and it was nice to see her get in that groove, get that confidence.”
The Cowgirls signed eight incoming freshmen.
“The underclassmen got valuable experience, now they know what postseason life is like, what it takes to win a championship,” Landreneau said. “I like the versatility of the kids that are coming in. I think they are fast; they are athletic and we have some physical kids as well. I think that combination is going to play well and keep the program moving in the right direction.”
Landreneau said he wants the Cowgirls to keep the heat on opposing pitchers and defenses.
“When we were able to put pressure (on opponents) we were really good,” he said. (In a 12-0 win over George Washington in the NCAA Tournament) we were able to do that, put some squeezes down, use some delayed steals and then the bats came alive. It was good to see.”
Tate threw a shutout in that game and won 14 of her last 17 decisions after an 0-5 start. Brinlee spearheaded a defense that led the country in double plays.
“I think we can pitch and can play defense.” Landreneau said. “Even though we are losing some valuable pieces on the infield, we are going to have a great defensive team. If you can pitch and play defense you are always going to have a chance. I think we are going to be a much-improved offensive team next year. We have some work to do. I like the hunger they have to start next season already. We are trying to hold them back and tell them to decompress a little bit. They are ready to get after it.”
The McNeese State softball team will reload for another run at the NCAA Tournament after a hectic season unlike any other.