LAKE CHARLES- Southland Conference Player of the Year Alanna DiVittorio and Pitcher of the Year Jamie Allred will lead the two-time defending league champion McNeese Cowgirl softball team into the 2014 SLC postseason tournament that gets underway on Thursday at North Oak Park in Hammond.
The Cowgirls (38-15, 20-6 SLC)) will be making their league-record 25th appearance in the postseason tournament including their 15th bid in the last 16 years, and will be shooting for their four tourney title. They'll open play at 4 p.m. against the winner between No. 4-seed Stephen F. Austin and 5th-seed Houston Baptist in the six-team, double-elimination tournament. All games will be streamed live for free on the Southland Digital Network by going to Southland.org.
McNeese claimed its second straight regular-season title and fourth overall championship after winning all nine regular season conference series and capping the slate with a three-game sweep over Lamar. McNeese is the first school to win back-to-back titles since former Southland member Texas State (2008-2010) and will be seeking to win its first conference tournament championship since 2010.
The Cowgirls' 38 wins ties a school record that was matched last season and set in 2010 while their 20-win conference season marked the first time since 2010 (SFA and Texas State) a league team posted 20 conference wins. McNeese also posted its sixth consecutive 30-win season and third under third-year head coach Mike Smith, the two-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year.
DiVittorio broke a combined seven records during the season and became the first Cowgirl to earn both player and hitter of the year honors since Heather Moreaux in 2000, and the 12th player in league history to reap both awards in the same season. She is the second Cowgirl ever to be named player of the year and third to be named hitter of the year. She leads McNeese with a .397 batting average, in slugging percent (.570), on-base percent (.537), runs scored (58), walks (45) and stolen bases (44).
Allred became the first McNeese player to be tabbed conference pitcher of the year since Angela Harrison in 1994. She set a new single-season record for victories and will enter the tournament with a 25-7 record. She leads the team with a 1.50 earned run average, 204 2/3 innings pitched, 195 strikeouts, and eight shutouts.
The other half of the Cowgirls' one-two punch in the circle is freshman Rachel Smith who garnered third-team all-SLC honors this season after she posted an 8-4 record with a 1.55 ERA, four shutouts, 85.2 innings pitched and 70 strikeouts.
McNeese has four other players batting over .300 on the season. Junior Lauren Langner, a second team all-SLC honoree, is second on the team with a .371 average. She leads the team with 63 hits and is tied with a team-high 11 doubles.
Right fielder Emily Vincent is batting .304 and is tied with Langner with 11 doubles. The second team all-SLC performer has 38 hits and 32 runs batted in on the season.
Second baseman Taylor Goree was a conference honorable mention selection after batting .301 on the season. She has 44 hits, 10 doubles and 23 RBI on the season heading into tourney play.
Freshman Marisa Taunton, the all-SLC third team pick, is batting .372 and has 32 hits with 17 RBI on the year.
The Cowgirls posted a 10-3 combined record against the other five participants in the tournament, including a 2-1 mark against Houston Baptist and 2-0 versus Stephen F. Austin.
2014 Southland Conference Softball Tournament
North Oak Park • Hammond, La.
Thursday, May 8
Game 1: 11 a.m. - No. 5 Houston Baptist vs. No. 4 Stephen F. Austin
Game 2: 1:30 p.m. - No. 6 Central Arkansas vs. No. 3 Sam Houston State
Game 3: 4 p.m. - Winner Game 1 vs. No. 1 McNeese
Game 4: 6:30 p.m. - Winner Game 2 vs. No. 2 Northwestern State
Friday, May 9
Game 5: 11 a.m. - Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 3
Game 6: 1:30 p.m. - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 4
Game 7: 4 p.m. - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
Game 8: 6:30 p.m. - Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6
Saturday, May 10
Game 9: 10:30 a.m. - Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8
Game 10: 2 p.m. - Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 9