The Lady Eagles start the season being thrown into a road matchup against McNeese State on Feb. 10 and an equally-tough tournament at the Louisiana Lafayette Invitational.
The Lady Eagles are looking to build off of last year’s breakout year after winning the C-USA West and was just edged out in 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 road trip will start against McNeese St., who are the defending Southland Conference champions and have been picked to repeat with the return of six of their starters. The Cowgirls had a .305 batting average last season and return their best hitter, Erika Piancastelli, who had a .428 batting average.
Despite how good McNeese St. was last season, they lose two of their best pitchers in 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 McNeese State’s pitching staff 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, making this a statement game.
“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 St., the Lady Eagles will head straight into the ULL tournament and play five more games and two doubleheaders.
If the Lady Eagles beat McNeese St., 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 University of 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 St.