Fast, furious: Cowgirls will be aggressive on basepaths, deep in pitching

Warren Arceneaux

The McNeese State softball season will start with the Cowgirls slated to play LSU at 5 p.m. today at the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge.

McNeese was 19-7 when last year’s season was halted and eventually ended by the coronavirus pandemic. Now the Cowgirls may have to wait out the weather before starting this season, with rain forecast throughout the day in Baton Rouge.

Once play does start, head coach James Landreneau said pitching depth should be a strength for the Cowgirls, who return Saleen Flores and Whitney Tate and added freshman Ashley Vallejo and graduate transfer Jenna Edwards from Valparaiso.

“I love our pitching staff; they stay composed, attack the strike zone,” Landreneau said. “We have four arms that are very dynamic. They all bring something different to the table for us.

“I thought Tate was coming on really well last year as a freshman. She has matured and can use both sides of the plate so well, is able to go up and down in the zone.

“Saleen has grown up and matured. The biggest thing for her is when she attacks the strike zone, she seldom gets hit hard.

“Vallejo is a kid that has great composure in the circle, very dynamic in how she pitches. She is explosive, a power arm.

“Edwards comes in as a transfer, a lefty who can spin the ball very well, adds a different look. She changes speed very well.”

In the field, competition abounds with more than a dozen players expected to be featured. Returning starters include third baseman Haylee Brinlee, shortstop Cori McCrary, second baseman Sara Geier and outfielders Kaylee Lopez and Toni Perrin.

Landreneau said the Cowgirls will make things happen on the basepaths.

“This team can run,” he said. “I feel we are really athletic throughout the lineup. We are going to put people in motion a bunch and try to get action out of this team.

“I don’t think we are going to sit there and bang home runs the whole time, but I think we can execute. We’ll be able to bunt, able to hit-and-run and we’ll be able to run bases. The message we constantly preach to the players is execution. We have to find a way to get runners to third and find a way to get them in.”

Landreneau said the hardships caused by the pandemic and two hurricanes have helped the team’s mental toughness.

“I love the ability to adapt by this team,” he said. “They are tough as nails. They don’t get fazed by much. I think ultimately we’ll be able to pitch and play good defense. Mentally, we’ll be able to handle stress, we’ll be able to adapt to changes as they come this season.”

A trio of Sam Houston High graduates — Tayler Strother, Padyn Williams and Jil Poullard — are expected to have larger roles this season, Landreneau said, saying those players embody the culture that has been created in the program.

“The thing I really appreciate about this team is that some of them had to really wait their time and they stuck to the process,” he said. “Strother is a kid who played as a freshman then had two years where she was not a starter and sticks it out.

“Geier (did the) same thing. Some of them had to just grind it out. Williams has been here three years and has not been a starter. She earned the right. Poullard had a rough freshman year but grew up, took her time, grinded. She fought for it and earned the right to be in the lineup right now.”

LSU Tiger Classic

McNeese Games

Friday

McNeese vs. LSU, 5 p.m.

Saturday

McNeese vs. Kansas, 9 a.m.

McNeese vs. Kansas, 11:30 a.m.

Sunday

McNeese vs. Duke, 10 a.m.The McNeese State softball season will start with a game against LSU at 5 p.m. today at the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge.

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