Lady Gators honor tradition at annual banquet

Peter Silas Pasqua

The St. Amant softball program honored its past before preparing for its future at its annual banquet Wednesday night at the Gonzales Holiday Inn.

The Lady Gators packed the conference room at the hotel as members of the 2008 squad were honored. St. Amant won its seventh straight district championship last spring and advanced to the Class 5A semifinals with a 29-7-1 record.

St. Amant outscored its opposition 213-62 allowing 44 percent fewer runs than the year before while being ranked in the USA Today Top 25 National High School Softball Poll. Members of the team received more than 40 district, state, regional and national honors.

Seven members were named to the all-District 6-5A team - MVP Aime Parent, Kandace Boudreaux, Bridget Buquoi, Emily Douglas, Kelly Luquette, Melanie Parker and Gabrielle Templet.

Boudreaux, Parent, Buquoi and Parker were named to the Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State team and Boudreaux, Douglas and Parent were named to the Louisiana Softball Coaches Association All-State Team. Boudreaux and Buquoi were also named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-South Region team with Boudreaux landing on the NFCA All-American Team.

Boudreaux also made the ESPN/RISE Magazine Under Armour All-American team and played in the All-Star game at Disneyworld in Orlando.

Ten players were named NFCA Academic All-Americans - Boudreaux, Buquoi, Douglas, Parker, Templet, Lexi Crews, Allison Martinez, Amanda Martinez, Heather Pickering and Peyton Vincent, with five achieving a 4.0 grade point average or higher. The team’s overall GPA was 3.27.

All with no seniors on the squad.

Head coach Scott Nielson said the banquet is held in August because several national awards are not announced till the summer.

“It has been a great run this year with our team,” Nielson said. “It is great to have the support of the community. They make things happen. Without everybody in this room, it would be really difficult for the program to be where it is.”

“We kind of have a reputation of playing ‘gorilla’ ball. That is OK because the kids know we are going to try to win games anyway we can. Our offensive production was down but our pitching and defense really stepped up.’’

The team’s Coach Jimmy “I” Iturralde Award was not presented this year because there were no seniors on the roster. Presented to the player who best exemplifies a list of criteria, including commitment to the team, work ethic, model student-athlete and exemplary citizenship, past winners include Erin Brown (2003), Kaitlyn Hudson (2004), Kayla Bruce (2005) and Lacie LeBlanc (2006).

“If students take full advantage of everything St. Amant has to offer, they will be better prepared for whatever they do in the future,” principal Steve Westbrook said. “I have always admired the student athlete because you are dedicated to achieve not just in the classroom. I know there are greater things to come.”

Since 1992 the St. Amant Softball program has an overall record of 386-94-15 and a district mark of 159-25.

From 2002-08, the Lady Gators are 233-28-12 with a district record of 82-4, seven consecutive district championships, seven state tournament appearances, six semifinal appearances and five Class 5A state championships. During that time the team has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the NFCA/USA Today National Poll.

In the last six years, the Lady Gators have outscored opponents 1,547-301, pitched 121 shutouts and hit 215 home runs including setting the national high school single- season home run record twice, as well as tying the 2006 record of 59 in 2007.

St. Amant also has had players named the Gatorade Circle of Champions state softball player of year twice and the Farm Bureau/LSWA’s “Miss Softball” twice, while sending eight girls to play in the Louisiana High School Coaches Association All-Star Game, while maintaining a overall team GPA of 3.395. And ten seniors have gone on to play softball at the collegiate level.

“St. Amant softball is the standard for softball in the state of Louisiana,” said assistant athletic director Celeste Small.

Plaques were given to Clark Lambert, Leroy Robert, Dana Aimee and Larry Buquoi for their support.

“The amazing part of this is a lot of these people have really no vested interest in the program,” Nielson said. “Some never had a child play. They just love the Gators.”

The night concluded with a highlight reel video produced by Buquoi.

“It is going to be a special season,” Nielson said. “Other teams order district championship T-shirts. We don’t. Our goal is always to play the last game of the year.”