Previewing The Baton Rouge Regional: McNeese St.
The Baton Rouge, La. softball regional gets underway on Friday at Tiger Park, with four teams vying for a trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns, making their 19th-consecutive regional appearance, will be part of a field that also includes the LSU Tigers, the top-seed in the regional, and the #13-overall seed, along with the McNeese St. Cowgirls and the Fairfield Stags in the double-elimination event.
Louisiana will take on McNeese St. in the first game of the regional, on Friday at 3 pm, followed by a match-up pitting LSU and Farifield at 5:30 pm.
Yesterday, we took a closer look at the Fairfield Stags.
Today, we preview the McNeese St. Cowgirls:
Making their fifth NCAA tournament appearance, McNeese St., the 2017 Southland Conference champion, will be making their second-consecutive regional trip to Baton Rouge.
The Cowgirls, who enter the regional with an overall record of 42-16, will be making their third all-time regional appearance in Baton Rouge, and making their second regional appearance against Louisiana.
The Cajuns defeated McNeese St., 3-0, back in 1994, the last time the two schools met in postseason play.
Last year in the Baton Rouge Regional, McNeese St. defeated Arizona St., 5-2, before falling to LSU, 4-1, and to Arizona St., 3-2.
The Cowgirls have an outstanding program. They have won at least 30 games for 9-consecutve seasons, including winning the Southland Conference regular season title in four of the last 5 years, while finishing as runner-up in another.
McNeese St. has also had some quality coaches that have had success and moved on, including Natalie Poole (Memphis), Mike Smith (Ole Miss), and Joanna Hardin (Virginia), who were the three previous head coaches prior to current head coach James Landreneau, who was on Hardin's staff, prior to taking over.
From offensive standpoint, McNeese St. is not elite, but they have some hitters that can hurt you.
Junior Erika Piancastelli is the most feared hitter, sporting a .375 batting average, to go along with 12 home runs and 48 runs batted in.
A three-time Southland Conference Hitter of the Year, and 2016 NFCA All-American (2nd team), Piancastelli is capable of winning a game all by herself.
The Cowgirls also feature sophomore Justyce McClain and freshman Alexandria Saldivar, two outfielders who were first-team All-Southland Conference picks, plus four hitters in the middle of the order, including Piancastelli, who drove in more than 30 runs.
While they occasionally beat opponents with the long ball, McNeese St. normally beat them on the base paths, accumulating 137 stolen bases. By contrast, opponents had only 28.
McClain, with 27 steals, and Piancastelli, with 25, lead the way. but the Cowgirls feature six players that have totaled double-digit steals this season.
McNeese St. has a very underrated, versatile offense, one that can beat you with the long ball, or the short game.
Pitching-wise, the Cowgirls are very good.
Senior right-hander Rachel Smith, the 2017 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, is 17-7, to go along with a 2.35 ERA., but McNeese St. also has Baylee Corbello, who transferred to McNeese after three successful years at LSU, before tallying 11 wins this season, and Alexsandria Fores, who has the best ERA. on the staff (1.50).
The Cowgirls have a stable of talented arms, and are dangerous because of it.
This is a team that did defeat BYU earlier this season, but hasn't fared well against regional teams, losing twice to Baylor, twice to Oklahoma St., and once to LSU, Oregon St. , and Texas, but shouldn't be taken lightly. They won all of their games in the Southland Conference Tournament via the mercy-rule, and bring a 12-game winning streak into the regional.
To be truthful, it would be an upset if McNeese St. would advance to Super Regional play, but it could happen, if everything falls for them.
If you want to know just how dangerous this team is, look no further than their win over Arizona St. in regional play last season.
Louisiana and LSU are the favorites, and rightfully so. But McNeese St. is the dark horse, who even if they don't win the regional, may have a lot of say in who does.
The complete regional schedule is below:
NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, May 19, 2017
G1: 3 p.m. – McNeese vs. Louisiana
G2: 5:30 p.m. – Fairfield vs. LSU
Saturday, May 20, 2017
G3: 12 p.m. – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
G4: 2:30 p.m. – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
G5: 5 p.m. – Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3
Sunday, May 21, 2017
G6: 1:30 p.m. – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
G7: 4 p.m. – (if necessary) Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6