Cowgirls enter new region
By Jim Gazzolo
The building process continues, but the pieces are in place now and getting bigger.
The McNeese State softball team has been willing to go anywhere and play anybody. The payoff came this year, when they earned a three-seed in a regional outside of the South.
Usually sent close by as cannon fodder for LSU or some other big Texas program, these Cowgirls earned the right to face some new foes.
They even traveled to another part of the country where they played a national brand in Notre Dame and the Big Ten champ Northwestern. And they did it in the Midwest, away from any possible comfort zone.
That is a giant step in the continued growth of a program that his been on the rise for close to a decade. National attention is exactly what the school and athletic program needs.
None of the challenges worried the Southland Conference champs, as they went about their job and had fun doing it.
Little McNeese blitzed mighty Notre Dame with 10 runs in the first inning of NCAA play. That’s 10 runs before the Irish ever got to swing a bat.
The statement was clear, no stage is too big for the Cowgirls.
Those runs served a purpose that would last the weekend. They showed all who were wondering what McNeese was doing in the Evanston Regional that the Cowgirls belonged.
Notre Dame fell 11-1 and it took only five innings for McNeese to dispose of the top-25 team, sending the Irish into the elimination round.
McNeese would get clobbered the next day, 17-3 by Northwestern, the No. 9 national seed.
A step forward followed by a push back.
So there the Cowgirls were, facing Notre Dame for a second time in two days. Loser goes home.
For any who figured the opening game was a fluke this would surely be proof.
Fool us once…you know the saying.
But again the Cowgirls responded. They first got a triple play to get out of a jam and then stole the show with a 3-1 victory. The Irish were done. The Cowgirls were moving on and making history.
For the first time every the program would play for a regional crown and trip to the Super Regional. It would not be easy, as McNeese needed to beat Northwestern twice Sunday to do so.
The Cowgirls couldn’t win one, falling 10-2 and finishing the season 40-21.
“They are tough and young and they have been through a lot this year,” said McNeese head coach James Landreneau. “They fought through adversity and they fought until the end. There is no quite in them and they showed how to respond and they do it the right way.”
It’s hard to say when a mid major like McNeese will be winning regionals. The gap between the power schools and rest continues to grow wider.
But last weekend the group from Lake Charles showed it isn’t impossible.
Maybe, with a few wins in the right places during the regular season a second seed in a regional might not be out of the question.
At least it is in the conversation.
Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who is the co-host of Poke Nation on CBS-Lake Charles. Email him at email@example.com or on twitter @JFGazzolo