Even moving up to the state's largest classification with four returning starters wasn't enough to slow the Sam Houston Broncos as they continued to build their softball dynasty.
After winning the Class 4A state title in 2011, Sam Houston won the Class 5A title in 2012.
It was part of the Broncos' run of four state championships in five seasons.
Sam Houston (23-4) lost three of its first six games, but junior pitcher Baylee Corbello, who went on to play for LSU and McNeese State, threw 12 shutouts over the next 21 games, saving her best for the final two games of the season.
In a single day, she pitched two nine-inning complete games — a 2-0 semifinal win over St. Joseph's, striking out 17 in the one-hitter, and a 2-1 win over defending state champion Hahnville in the final with 14 strikeouts. Corbello went on to win Class 5A all-state MVP, American Press Big Schools MVP honors and the first of back-to-back Miss Softball awards, posting a 23-4 record with 337 strikeouts, a .496 batting average and 39 RBIs.
But it wasn't all about Corbello's arm. In the Broncos' 12-2 win over Class 5A power Denham Springs in the quarterfinals, Chelsea Evans went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a three-run home run and five RBIs.
In the semifinals, freshman Taylor Edwards, a future McNeese player, hit a two-out, two-run single down the left-field line to bring home Brooke Rozas and Braylynn Poullard in the ninth inning.
Rozas, a center fielder, made a game-saving defensive play in the final. She caught a fly ball hit by Courtney Dutreix and threw out a runner at the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with catcher Tori Lantz tagging Hahnville's Alexandra Friloux. In the top of the ninth, Rozas drew a two-out walk and scored the go-ahead run on a double to the center-field fence by Allie Fields.
Head coach Beth Domingue was named the American Press All-Southwest Big Schools Coach of the Year after leading the Broncos to the final for a third consecutive season.
2 Barbe (2019) — The Bucs didn't let youth get in their way after making their first run to the Class 5A final since 2009.
Freshman pitcher Halie Pappion, the American Press All-Southwest Big Schools MVP, was a duel threat. She went 21-6 with a 2.23 earned run average, striking out 48 in five playoffs games. She hit .423 with nine home runs, including a tying two-run shot in the seventh inning of the Bucs' 7-6 win over Airline in the semifinals. Freshman Brenna Moncrief followed with an RBI double for the lead.
Sophomore Alana Mark's solo home run in the third inning gave Barbe a 1-0 lead in the final, but St. Amant's Julia Kramer hit a three-run walk-off home run.
Senior third baseman Ka'le Guillory was the Bucs' biggest offensive threat with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.
The Bucs had plenty of speed on the bases too. Sophomore outfielder Kylie DeHart stole 51 bases and Mica Beaudoin had 20.
3 Hackberry (2013) — The Hackberry dynasty kept rolling with its fourth consecutive Class C state championship.
The Mustangs had a lockdown pitcher in Jolie Trahan plus a lineup that had six players batting over .400, led by American Press All-Southwest Small Schools MVP shortstop Sydney Broussard, catcher Sami Little, outfielder D.J. Simon and utility player Mattie Stine.
Hackberry (22-4) rolled through the playoffs behind Trahan, who allowed one run in four games. Trahan, who was named tournament MVP, struck out 33 batters at the state tournament and tossed a no-hitter in the quarterfinals.
In the final, Broussard hit a two-run single in the fourth inning. Trahan recorded her 10th strikeout of the game with the tying run on third in the top of the seventh, and Hackberry held on to beat Georgetown 2-1.
4 DeRidder (2018) — After a 3-1 loss to West Ouachita in the 2017 semifinals, the Dragons rebounded by winning their first state championship.
With pitcher Lauren Parson (17-7, .343, 12 HRs) holding Morgan City's offense to three hits with 13 strikeouts, the Dragons never trailed in their 5-1 win in the final, playing small ball and taking advantage of their speed on the basepaths, and a seventh-inning home run by Kailey LeFrere (.368, 7 HRs).
DeRidder almost didn't make it to the final after getting into a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning of its semifinal game against three-time defending state champion North DeSoto. But the Dragons scored four runs in the eighth inning highlighted by a two-run hit by Brooklyn Green.
Parson was named the MVP of the 4A state championship game and was named the American Press Big Schools MVP while head coach Todd Schulz was the Big Schools Coach of the Year after leading the Dragons to the final for the first time since 1983.
5 Kinder (2019) — The Yellow Jackets came within an out of winning their first state championship.
Down 6-4 in the top of the seventh, Brooklyn Fontenot's hit bounded over Mangham's third baseman to bring home a run, and Laura Gartman hit an RBI single followed by a two-run shot down the left-field line by Chloe Oliver for an 8-6 lead. But Mangham loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the inning, scoring two runs on a Camm Neathery single and the winning run on an error.
Kinder rolled through the first four rounds of the playoffs, outscoring opponents 38-2 behind the pitching of Gartman (13-3, 1.57 ERA, 145 Ks) and big bats in Fontenot (.620, 6 doubles, 2 HRs, 40 runs, 16 SB), Oliver (.477, 6 HRs, 41 RBIs), Chloe Hamilton (.550, 33 RBIs, 39 runs) and Sydney Seemion (.535, 31 RBIs).
Kinder scored 10 or more runs 16 times and ended a string of three consecutive quarterfinal losses led by longtime head coach Skip Pickle.