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Dynasty in making

May 15, 2023 09:55AM ● By Jim Gazzolo

As Reese Reyna’s blast cleared the wall in left field Saturday, a true dynasty had come of age.

The sophomore hit a walk-off home run that gave McNeese State its third straight Southland Conference Tournament championship and sixth in eight seasons.

If that is not a dynasty, I’m not sure what is these days.

In a time of transfer portals and NIL money, McNeese softball has found a way to dominate its league like none before. Their three-peat was a repeat performance from 2016-2018. 

McNeese is the only school to ever have won three straight SLC softball titles.

“I never really thought about us being a dynasty,” said head coach James Landreneau. “Maybe when I retire I will think about it. Right now, we can’t think about that. 

“I feel very fortunate I have had some teams play well in these tournaments. But we have to keep grinding this out.”

The Cowgirls will play in their third straight NCAA Tournament starting Friday night when they open against Minnesota in the Seattle Regional. They have already beaten host Washington this season.

But this program is much more than a few years of recent success. Since James Landreneau took over in 2017 McNeese has become a national brand in softball.

Willing to play anybody at any time, the Cowgirls have made a name for themselves with tough scheduling and some big wins.

Three times this year they have knocked off a Top 25 club after doing it twice in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

Landreneau gives a lot of credit to the town, which has embraced the program. 

“We couldn’t ask for a better game from a fan’s standpoint or for the conference,” Landreneau said. “It was a regional atmosphere; we want to thank the fan bases for both schools. You couldn’t ask for anything better.

“Lake Charles has embraced this program and these players.”

The Cowgirls play to big crowds almost every game. They have won fans over with solid, exciting play and victories. 

Under Landreneau McNeese has posted a 255-139 record. That really goes up in conference play. 

If you include his six trips to the Southland Conference Tournament, five of which Landreneau teams have won, the Cowgirls are 137-47 against league foes. That is a .744-win percentage.

McNeese is 19-2 in SLC tournament games under Landreneau.

The Cowgirls have four 40-win seasons since 2017 and have won at least 30 games every season but 2020, when they were 19-7 before everything was shut down due to COVID.

“We want to be a program that has high expectations and one that has a chance to win every year,” said Landreneau. 

His teams have done that. There have been 12 championships handed out by the SLC since Landreneau took over the top job. Six each in the regular season and tournaments.

Of those, McNeese has captured eight. 

As or consistency, the Cowgirls went 84-29 in their coach’s first two seasons and the same over the last two.

And this year, the 44 wins is a program record, breaking the old mark by one so far, which was set in Landreneau’s first year.

As for how long he will stay the coach, Landreneau says he hopes it’s a long time. 

“I want to be here as long as they want me to be,” said Landreneau.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State for CBS-Lake Charles. He is also  the host of Poke Nation.