So many of those young players that got tossed into the fire last season are now battle tested and one year wiser. And unlike last season, most of the parish's best players will be back to lead their teams in 2018.

Last season, despite plenty of youth and inexperience throughout the parish, four Ascension softball teams made the playoffs, and three won at least one postseason game. Of those three teams, two reached the state tournament in Sulphur.

Not bad for teams that parted ways with multiple key contributors and were forced to break in many first-year starters.

In 2018, things are only looking up.

So many of those young players that got tossed into the fire last season are now battle tested and one year wiser. And unlike last season, most of the parish’s best players will be back to lead their teams in 2018.

In head coach Amy Pitre’s first year at St. Amant, the Lady Gators again finished undefeated in District 5-5A and won the league championship. They again reached the state quarterfinals.

Though, early in the season, they had to endure some pitching woes.

Freshman Alyssa Romano was forced to step in and be the team’s No. 1. She struggled at first, but when she hit her stride, so did the Lady Gators.

They finished the regular season by winning 21 of their final 22 games.

Romano was named the Parish Pitcher of the Year, and she now returns for the Lady Gators in 2018.

St. Amant will lose the district and Parish MVP in Abby McKey, who hit well over .500 last season, but they return LSU signee Taylor Tidwell, along with all-district players like Jadyn Rumfellow and Brooke Romano.

Dutchtown looks to compete with the Lady Gators for the District 5-5A crown.

After losing multiple starters last season, including four-year starting pitcher and Southeastern signee Ali McCoy, it appeared the Lady Griffins might be in for a rebuilding year, but they surged to a 19-14 record and reached the second round of the playoffs.

Freshmen pitchers Carly Turner and Erin Hardy filled in nicely for McCoy.

Turner won 13 games. She also hit .360 from the plate.

Both players will return this season, as well as another superb sophomore in Paige Patterson. Patterson was a first-team all-district performer last year as she hit .531.

Other big-time returning hitters include Hannah Martin, Denae Lowe and Baylee Bourgeois.

East Ascension is looking to return to the playoffs this season under second-year head coach Katie Ocmand.

The Lady Spartans had the unenviable task of replacing their entire starting lineup in 2017. With so much inexperience on the roster, they finished just 9-22.

Things are quite different in 2018. Almost the entire Lady Spartan roster returns.

Among those coming back will be starting pitcher Erin Nicol. Nicol also hit .350 from the plate.

Rachel Ducote and Tamia Washington will also be back. Each player hit better than .320 in 2017.

“They’ve gotten more experience on defense and offense that will benefit them this upcoming season. I’m excited to see how much they have developed over the year,” Ocmand said.

District 6-1A should see an interesting battle between parish foes Ascension Catholic and Ascension Christian.

Ascension Catholic returns as the district champion. Like St. Amant, they went undefeated in league play and reached the state quarterfinals under head coach Don Henry, who began his second tenure at the school.

The Lady Bulldogs will lose all-district star Carson Dunn, but they bring back everyone else.

This includes two strong sophomore pitchers in Emily Beck and Angelle Theriot.

It also includes district MVP Ceily Grisaffe—who hit .538 last season—and all-district stars like Bailey Acosta, Alicia Canatella, Isabelle Abadie and Lauren Landry.

Ascension Christian will be out to challenge the Lady Bulldogs for the district crown as they play under first-year head coach George Gutierrez.

The Lady Lions did lose senior leaders in Emily Millet and Kaley Ryan, but they return an all-district pitcher in Maddie Gautreau, who won 12 games in 2017.

They also bring back dangerous hitters like Hallie Dupre and Layla Thompson that each hit over .500.

Gutierrez said, “Our team objectives are to be disciplined on and off the field, have good field communication, make the routine defensive plays, be aggressive hitters and be smart base-runners. We have a young but experienced core group of players.”