MADEIRA BEACH, Fla.— McNeese softball swung the hot bat in its wins over Villanova and Middle Tennessee here Friday on the opening day of the Eastern Michigan Madeira Beach Invitational. Senior Erika Piancastelli broke the McNeese and Southland Conference runs scored record against Villanova, scoring three runs in the game to give her 178 career runs scored. The previous record was held by former Cowgirl standout Alanna DiVittorio.
“Erika had a great day with a couple of home runs and a double. She is a special player and person,” said head coach James Landreneau. “She has handled her success with such humble class. It was special to watch her teammates celebrate the milestone with her.”
McNeese (10-3) combined to score 21 runs on 20 hits in its 13-3 win over Villanova and its 8-5 come from behind win over Middle Tennessee.
“Our lineup was able to put stress on our opponents today. With traffic on the base paths, we were fortunate to come up with timely hitting.”
Sophomore Alexandria Saldivar led the Cowgirls on the day with five hits along with four RBI. Junior Justyce McClain also had a productive day with four hits including her first career home run with a leadoff homer against Villanova to start the game. Justyce also scored five runs, picked up three walks and produced a .667 batting average. Piancastelli picked up three hits with two being home runs. Both home runs came against Villanova and she scored five runs on the day.
Pitchers Amber Coons and Alexsandra Flores each picked up a win on the day. Coons improved to 2-0 on the season with the win over Villanova and Flores improved to 4-2 on the season with the win in relief against Middle Tennessee.
Coons allowed three runs on eight hits with two strikeouts in five innings before Ashley Koncir came into the game to throw the final two innings. Koncir threw two shutout innings, allowing one hit.
Flores relieved starter Caroline Shannon in the third inning against Middle Tennessee with the Cowgirls trailing 4-1. Flores allowed one run on two hits, walked two and struck out two in 4 1/3 innings in the Cowgirls’ comeback.
Against Villanova, McClain led the game off with her first career home run to give McNeese the early lead. Villanova answered with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first to even the game at one apiece.
After a scoreless second inning, the Cowgirls scored at least one run in the final five innings with three runs in the third, one in the fourth, two in both the fifth and sixth and four in the seventh.
McNeese picked up five extra base hits in the game with doubles coming from Padyn Williams and Carleigh Chaumont and two solo home runs from Piancastelli along with the Justyce solo home run.
In the win over Middle Tennessee, McNeese took the early lead in the first inning as well when McClain scored on a RBI by Morgan Catron. The Raiders scored four runs on four hits in the third inning to take a 4-1 lead but the Cowgirls slowly chipped away at the lead.
McNeese scored two runs in the third to get to within one run (3-2) on a two RBI single by Saldivar.
Two innings later, Catron’s single up the middle scored Piancastelli to tie the game at four apiece. Piancastelli reached base on a double to right field. Hailey Drew’s single to the pitcher scored pinch runner JaMaiya Miller from third for the 5-4 McNeese lead. Drew not only helped on offense but her defense was outstanding in both games as well.
“Hailey Drew was lights out defensively and continues to anchor down our defense.”
McNeese added three more runs on five hits in the six to extend its lead to 8-4. McClain and Saldivar each picked up an RBI.
The Raiders got a run back in the top of the seventh off a solo home run to cut the lead to 8-5 but Flores got the next batter to ground out to Drew at short before the game ended on a come back grounder to Flores.
McNeese will face Manhattan at 10 a.m. and Delaware at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday before facing Arkansas at 8 a.m. on Sunday. All times are central time.
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