Preview to softball’s season opener
The Lady Eagles will start the season on the road, matching up against McNeese State on Feb. 10 and an equally-tough tournament at the Louisiana Lafayette Invitational.
The Lady Eagles look to build off of last year’s breakout season after winning the C-USA West, being barely edged out of the C-USA tournament semifinals. They will easily be one of the top contenders for the C-USA crown this season.
“Your first game can make or break you that first weekend,” said Head Coach Wendy Hogue. “I think that McNeese is a very good team.”
The McNeese State Cowgirls, the defending Southland Conference champions, have been picked to repeat with the return of six of their starters. The Cowgirls had a .305 batting average last season and return with Erika Piancastelli, their best hitter, who had a .428 batting average last season.
Despite how good McNeese St. was last season, they lost two of their best pitchers – Emily Vincent and Jamie Allred.
Vincent led the team with a 1.51 earned run average, and Allred threw a 1.82 ERA last season. The loss of the two players puts a major void in the pitching staff of McNeese State, whose best returning pitcher will be Rachel Smith, who posted 3.02 ERA in only 12 appearances. McNeese St. will be a tough challenge for the Lady Eagles, but winning is within their reach.
Walking away from a victory will no doubt set a tone for the success they could have this season.
“I think it is very important for us to come out on a good start,” Hogue said. “I want to pitch well and hit well. I want to have a great defensive game, because I do feel like that game against McNeese is going to set us up for the weekend.”
After McNeese State, the Lady Eagles will head straight into the ULL tournament and play five more games, including two doubleheaders.
If the Lady Eagles beat McNeese State, the momentum will help them into the tournament and should help them roll through Ball State and Iowa State. Both of those teams will be good opportunities to help test the depth of the team but more importantly test the bullpen for the Lady Eagles to find one more solid starting pitcher.
In this final span of games, the Lady Eagles will face No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette in a doubleheader. If the Lady Eagles can just take one game away from the Ragin’ Cajuns, then the team can walk away from the opening weekend with high hopes for the season.
However, the necessity of all of this stems from having immediate success against McNeese State.