SULPHUR — No. 4 Iowa looked to be in the driver's seat after taking a five-run lead, but one swing changed everything as No. 3 Jena rallied to win 12-10 in the Class 3A championship game Saturday at the state softball tournament.
"Both teams were excellent hitters," Iowa head coach Kenzie Singletary said. "I thought we hit the ball well.
"We came out early on with some big swings. Again, throughout the lineup, our lineup showed up again today. We just didn't score quite enough runs as needed."
Iowa (26-6) led 9-5 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, but the Giants (25-8) quickly loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. After Hallie Paul hit an RBI single, Tori Shirley smoked a 0-1 pitch over the fence in center field to tie the score at 9-9.
"I think we started to get a little tired there," Singletary said. "That changed the momentum for (Jena).
"I think our girls kind of felt defeated at that point because we hadn't given up any comparable to that hit right there all year."
Janasia Jones, the 3A title game's most outstanding player, put the finishing touches on the Giants' rally with her second home run of the game in the fifth inning, a two-run shot that gave Jena its first lead, 11-10.
The teams combined for six home runs and 20 hits. The 22 total runs tied for the fourth-most in a championship game in Louisiana High School Athletic Association softball history.
"Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to state," Singletary said. "We lost in the first round two years ago and your expectation have to be real.
"We didn't expect to win a state championship, however, we made it here. The girls have nothing to hang their heads about. It is the first trophy in the school's history for softball. We are making history today and look forward to building on it."
Iowa reached the final for the first time in program history, something that senior right fielder Karagan Howard is proud of.
"It hurts knowing that we worked our butts off for five years to get to Sulphur," Howard said. "It is an accomplishment.
"As a senior at the beginning of the season, I wanted my last game to be in Sulphur, and we did that. I am proud of where our team came (from). It just sucks that we didn't get that trophy, but I am proud of our journey."
The Yellow Jackets broke a 4-4 tie with a five-run fourth inning highlighted by a three-run home run by Kylie Boudreaux and RBI hits by Ana Alexander and Lesley Lebleu.
Iowa scored two runs in the opening frame on a double by Lesley Lebleu and went up 4-2 on a leadoff solo home run by Kamryn Broussard in the third.
After scoring 10 runs through the first five innings, Jena relief pitcher Cayla Decker held the Yellow Jackets scores less over the final two innings.
For a second consecutive game, Iowa didn't strike out, outhitting the Giants 11-9. Alexander led Iowa at the plate, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs. Lebleu went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and Kamryn Broussard was 2-for-4 with three runs and an RBI.