Landry takes over battle-tested Lady Bulldogs

Peter Silas Pasqua
Ascension Catholic senior Allison Falcon, a six-year starter, returns to shortstop after leading the Lady Bulldogs with a .447 batting average to go with 35 RBI?and 34 runs.

DONALDSONVILLE - Ascension Catholic has great expectations every year going into a season. Three state championships in a short span will do that. But it has almost been a decade since the Lady Bulldogs have taken home the hardware and this season will be the last chance for a group of seniors who have been starting since they seventh graders.

Ascension Catholic earned the No. 1 seed going into the state playoffs last season but lost to Ouachita Christian in the Class 1A semifinals at the state tournament in Sulphur to finish the year with an overall record of 28-12.

“It was very disappointing,” Ascension Catholic first-year head coach Darrell Landry said. “We were a new staff last year coming in. We were probably a little inexperienced in those big game situations. It was a combination of things and sometimes the better team doesn’t win.”

Landry takes over for Cliff Kliebert who spent one season as the Lady Bulldogs head coach.

“We have a lot of the same philosophies, especially defensively,” Landry said. “We believe in a very strong pitching game and making other teams beat you. Where we differ is he came from a baseball background and was a little more conservative than I will be. I think I will be a little more aggressive baserunning and in the small game slapping, bunting and stealing trying to manufacture a few more runs. We have maintained a lot that we implemented last year as far as defensively.

“We have quite a few kids that have started for a good while now. We have implemented more of a strength and conditioning program on a continuous basis. Last year, we kind of stopped early in the season to play ball. I am looking to continue this throughout the year because I think we hit the ball harder early in the season and fizzled toward the end. We should have a lot more depth this year because everyone is a year older and we have kids that played a lot of summer ball. Hopefully we are better than last year. Hopefully we are two games better. It takes luck and hopefully we can produce.I am not going to say we are going to win it but that is the goal every year.”

PITCHING STAFF - District 9-1A MVP and four-time all-district selection Ashlyn Grisaffe returns to the circle for her senior campaign after posting a 17-4 record with a 1.52 ERA while striking out 101 in 105 innings.

“She has a year under her belt with me as her pitching coach,” Landry said. “Last year, I didn’t know what she could do and she didn’t know me. I think we have a connection that is going to help us in the long run. She has gotten better and a lot of that has been the result of lifting weights. She has gotten stronger and has been throwing the ball harder. She has a riser, drop curve, in screw, change up and fastball. She can hit her spot wherever she wants to.”

Also returning for the Lady Bulldogs is freshmen Alayna Falcon, who has pitched since she was in seventh grade. Falcon was 10-7 in the circle last season with a 1.84 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 95 innings.

“She throws the ball very hard,” Landry said. “I started working with her last year on a changeup and trying to develop a rise ball which is a difficult pitch to master. She is getting the hang of it and the more time she gets the better she is going to be.”

Lauren Blanchard and Aime Guillot provide depth in the circle.

LINEUP - Ascension Catholic loses no seniors from last season and were expecting to field a team with eight senior but will be without the services of two multi-year starters who decided not to play their last year. The Lady Bulldogs are also awaiting the return of four basketball players.

Senior shortstop Allison Falcon, a former district MVP, returns to anchor the infield after leading the team with a .447 batting average to go with 35 RBIs and 34 runs. Another first-team all-district selection, senior Ali Bouchereau returns to second after batting .310 with 15 RBI and seven runs.

“We may have some changes this year in the infield but the middle will be the same and the strength,” Landry said.

Gone are catcher Alisa Richard and designated hitter Mary Dubreuil, both first-team all-district selections.

Eighth-grader Nancy Guillot saw a lot of time last year at catcher and in the outfield earning first-team all-district after scoring a team-high 36 runs while batting .447 while leading off.

“She is a multi talented player that can play anywhere on the field,” Landry said. “Where ever we need her. She will definitely be in the starting lineup.”

Senior third baseman Kristen Guercio also returns after earning all-district honors.

Guillot and Alayna Falcon have experience in the outfield as well as first-team all-district selections Annie Ourso and Anna Lassere. Ourso, an all-state selection, is being worked at first base after hitting a team high seven home runs with 42 RBI. Lassere returns to centerfield .368 with 23 runs and 10 stolen bases. Senior Katie Gianelloni, Lauren Oubre and Bailey Landry provide depth in the outfield and Canon Blanchard and Maggie Schexnayder has experience in the infield, while Grisaffe and Jeanne Gianelloni have played first base.

“I thought we had a few holes on the corners last year that we needed to sew up,” Landry said. “We may have changes with some of the same players on the team. We got some kids that will make decisions hard on me.”

Senior Michelle Prejeant, Lanie Chiquet and Syndi Gregoire are expected to pinch run.

“I am looking to expand our run production through the small game while still hitting the ball hard and creating some mismatches when it is available,” Landry said. “I think we have more options coming off the bench base running wise if we need it. I think we picked up some speed.”

SCHEDULE - With just four District 9-1A games on the schedule (two each against West St. John and East Iberville), Landry hopes a tough non-district slate will prepare the Lady Bulldogs for the postseason. Ascension Catholic opens the at Assumption and Dutchtown before hosting a doubleheader against perennial power St. Amant. The Lady Bulldogs then host Riverside before traveling to St. John. They will participate in the Coach “I” tournament before taking on Runnels before district starts. Games with False River, Live Oak, Terrebonne, Parkview Baptist, East Ascension and St. Charles Catholic will be played during district as well as competing in the Berwick, Sulphur and Riverside tournaments.

“We feel that we have a built in advantage with our district,” Landry said. “ We want to play the best teams in the state period no matter what class. All of these teams are really good and we expect to perform. We are trying to raise the level of play and expectations of our kids. To beat these teams, not just show up and play with them.”

OUTLOOK - Landry believes the Lady Bulldogs must not dwell on expectations and play to have fun.

“The keys to the season is the kids buying into the system and being patient with themselves,” Landry said. “Our pitching staff has to stay healthy. In softball, that is critical. You get one injury in pitching and it can really put a damper on your season.”

“They have had that expectation. Sometimes that can help you and sometimes that can hurt you because if you are playing under pressure sometimes you perform less than your best. To me, the key is performing the way they do in practice, relaxing and letting the game come to them. We have to all pull together and continue to fight. I think we will be successful if we can maintain that. If we get some breaks hopefully we can bring home a state championship. That is the ultimate goal as a program. There is only going to be one team that brings it home and hopefully we can bring it back to Donaldsonville. I think we are capable and have enough talent. Whether the cards fall, who knows.”

Ascension Catholic senior Ali Boucherau, a six-year starter, returns at second base for the Lady Bulldogs after batting .310 with 15 RBI and seven runs last season.