A total of 56 high school softball teams will converge on Sulphur this weekend for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association's Fast Pitch 56 state tournament at Frasch Park.
The three-round tournament, split into seven classes, begins with the quarterfinal round on Friday and ends with the semifinals and championship game on Saturday.
The following is a preview for look at the Lake Area's seven squads. For a full story on each team, as well as a look at every team in the tournament, pick up a copy of Friday's American Press. The full tourney schedule can be found at the bottom of this page.
The seed number in front of Sam Houston’s name on the bracket is not befitting a team that has won consecutive state titles and return’s the state’s most valuable player.
The No. 19 Broncos are back to defend their Class 5A state title after an up-and-down regular season that saw the state’s reigning Miss Softball, Baylee Corbello, restricted from pitching due to a preseason injury. Corbello returned to the circle in time for the playoffs and has pitched consecutive no-hitters as the Broncos reached the state tournament for the sixth consecutive season.
The Broncos enter with an 18-9 record after winning their final 12 games of the season. All of the losses came in a rugged nondistrict schedule.
“We have had our struggles, but I told them in the long run that was not going to do anything but help us,” said Broncos head coach Beth Domingue. “We have had pressure put on us defensively, especially early in the season the defense struggled, but we have gotten that down and started hitting the ball, then getting Baylee back is always a plus.”
The Broncos beat No. 3 seed West Monroe 2-0 in the regional round game.
Changing on the fly has become the norm for DeRidder’s softball team this year.
The playoffs are no different.
After two years of getting close to returning to Sulphur, the Lady Dragons finally made it back to the state tournament the hard way.
In the playoff opener DeRidder lost star pitcher and hitter Jamie Wentzel to a torn ACL. The senior would finish the first-round game and improve her season record to 24-4 in the process.
“That was amazing,” said Lady Dragon head coach Troy Gardner. “Now we have to keep it going even if we won’t have Jamie.”
The fifth-seeded Dragons (25-4) will take on No. 4 Belle Chasse at 6 p.m. Friday at Frasch Park.
We’ve seen this story before, with DeQuincy and Riverside set to meet at the state tournament. Tiger fans will be hoping for a different ending.
DeQuincy has lost to the Rebels twice before in Sulphur, and again in the regional round last year.
Riverside, the No. 2 seed, will again enter as the favorite, but DeQuincy head coach Welborn Ashworth said his team has a good fighting spirit, which it showed in a comeback, 4-2 win over Springfield in the regional round to return to the state tournament for the tenth time since 1998.
“They never give up and never give in, they stay in the battle,” Ashworth said. “They have (made comebacks) several times over the course of the season.”
The Lady Hornets expect to be in Sulphur every spring.
They plan for it and talk about it. They are not afraid of lofty expectations.
And they have been back every year since their 2005 championship but two.
Grand Lake was beaten a game short of their goal by Stanley last season. And they were beaten on their own field. “It was a tough loss,” said Grand Lake softball coach Rachelle Monceaux.
However, it is that loss which has fueled the 16-5 Lady Hornets back to the Class B state championship tournament, starting today with a 6 p.m. game against No. 6 Monterey.
Being the hunted is never easy, but the Hackberry Mustangs were able to handle the pressure last year when they successfully defended their Class C state championship.
The Mustangs are back again, entering as both the top seed and heavy favorite to make it three championships in a row.
Head coach Angie Little knows how motivated the rest of the field will be to take the title away.
“There is a target on us for sure, there is pressure on us to win again,” Little said. “It was just like us when we played (then two-time defending champion) Claiborne Christian, we did not want them to win three. It is hard to stay at the top. You know everyone is going to bring their best, so you have to play well every time. If you want the prestige, you have to go get it. Nobody is going to lay down for you.”
The Mustangs (18-4) have grown accustomed to the high-stakes game. The team is in Sulphur for the sixth consecutive year.
Starks has been to the state softball tournament each of the past 11 seasons but is looking to get back into the championship game for the first time since winning the it in 2006.
Last year the Panthers lost 2-1 to St. Joseph-Plaucheville in the quarterfinal round.
An old nemesis will be waiting in Sulphur. Quarterfinal opponent Calvin has beaten Starks three times in Sulphur, winning semifinal games in 2004, ’05 and ’09. The two head coaches, Calvin’s David Huckaby and Starks’ Jack Miller, are longtime friends.
The duo combined to win five consecutive championships from 2004-08.
Starks (10-12) had to overcome youth to keep its Sulphur streak alive, with only two senior starters.
For the Lady Bulldogs, their reward for a third straight trip to Sulphur is a date with No. 1 seed and defending state Class C champion Hackberry in the first round.
“It won’t be easy, but why not us,” asked Elizabeth head coach Robert Smith. “Might as well get Hackberry out of the way fast and move on.”
If the Lady Bullodgs can pull off the upset, then they will take over the top seeds spot in the bracket.
“That is what I told the girls,” said Brown. “I told them somebody has to win it so why not us.”
Despite the fact that Elizabeth has been on a roll of late, the Bulldogs (14-9) are still a young team. Six of the starters will be juniors, but the experience of the last two years is helpful.
But the Lady Bulldogs will have to hit in order to advance past today’s quarterfinal game which is set for 6 p.m. today.
The state softball championships will be decided this weekend in Sulphur.
The Fast Pitch 56 begins Friday and ends Saturday night with the crowning of seven state champions.
Six area schools — Sam Houston, DeRidder, DeQuincy, Grand Lake, Hackberry and Stars will be in action.
Both Sam Houston and Hackberry have won state titles each of the past two seasons. Sam Houston won the Class 4A title in 2011 and the 5A title last season. Hackberry has won the last two Class C crowns.
No. 1 Hahnville vs. No. 9 Mount Carmel, noon
No. 4 Live Oak vs. No. 5 Fontainebleau, 2 p.m.
No. 2 St. Amant vs. No. 10 Parkway, 4 p.m.
No. 6 Dutchtown vs. No. 19 Sam Houston, 6 p.m.
No. 1 Vandebilt Catholic vs. No. 8 St. Thomas More, noon
No. 5 DeRidder vs. No. 4 Belle Chasse, 6 p.m.
No. 3 West Ouachita vs. No. 6 Neville, 2 p.m.
No. 7 Teurlings Catholic vs. No. 18 Grant, 4 p.m.
No. 1 Brusly vs. No. 8 Crowley, 4 p.m.
No. 4 North Vermilion vs. No. 5 Jena, 2 p.m.
No. 3 Kaplan vs. No. 6 Notre Dame, 6 p.m.
No. 2 Buckeye vs. No. 7 St. Charles, noon
No. 1 John Curtis vs. No. 24 Winnfield, 2 p.m.
No. 4 North Webster vs. No. 12 Pine Prairie, 4 p.m.
No. 3 Evangel Christian vs. No. 22 Many, noon
No. 2 Riverside Academy vs. No. 7 DeQuincy, 6 p.m.
No. 16 Westminster Christian vs. No. 8 St. John, 2 p.m.
No. 5 Archbishop Hannan vs. No. 4 Central Catholic, 4 p.m.
No. 3 Catholic-Pointe Coupee vs. No. 6 Oak Grove, noon
No. 7 Ascension Catholic vs. No. 18 False River, 6 p.m.
No. 1 Florien vs. No. 9 Converse, 2 p.m.
No. 5 Zwolle vs. No. 4 Grace Christian, noon
No. 3 Grand Lake vs. No. 6 Monterey, 6 p.m.
No. 10 Anacoco vs. No. 2 Stanley, 4 p.m.
No. 1 Hackberry vs. No. 9 Elizabeth, 6 p.m.
No. 5 Northside Christian vs. No. 4 St. Joseph’s-Plaucheville, 2 p.m.
No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 6 Kilbourne, noon
No. 7 Starks vs. No. 2 Calvin, 4 p.m.
Hahnville-Mount Carmel winner vs. Live Oak-Fontainebleau winner, 1 p.m. (Field 15)
St. Amant-Parkway winner vs. Dutchtown-Sam Houston winner, 1 p.m. (Field 13)
Vandebilt Catholic-St. Thomas More winner vs. DeRidder-Belle Chasse winner, 1 p.m. (Field 16)
West Ouachita-Neville winner vs. Teurlings Catholic-Grant winner, 1 p.m. (Field 14)
Brusly-Crowley winner vs. North Vermilion-Jena winner, 1 p.m. (Field 17)
Kaplan-Notre Dame winner vs. Buckeye-St. Charles winner, 1 p.m. (Field 18)
John Curtis-Winnfield winner< vs. North Webster-Pine Prairie winner, 11 a.m. (Field 15)
Evangel Christian-Many winner vs. Riverside Academy-DeQuincy winner, 11 a.m. (Field 16)
Westminster Christian-St. John winner vs. Archbishop Hannan-Central Catholic winner, 11 a.m. (Field 19)
Catholic-Pointe Coupee-Oak Grove winner vs. Ascension Catholic-False River winner, 11 a.m. (Field 20)
Florien-Converse winner vs. Zwolle-Grace Christian winner, 11 a.m. (Field 17)
Grand Lake-Monterey winner vs. Anacoco-Stanley winner, 11 a.m. (Field 18)
Hackberry-Elizabeth winner vs. Northside Christian-St. Joseph’s-Plaucheville winner, 11 a.m. (Field 13)
Georgetown-Kilbourne winner vs. Starks-Calvin winner, 11 a.m. (Field 14)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (Field 14)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (Field 15)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m. (Field 16)
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m. (Field 13)
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m. (Field 15)
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m. (Field 14)
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m. (Field 16)