SULPHUR SACRIFICE: St. Amant advances to Sulphur over Lady Spartans

Peter Silas Pasqua
St. Amant’s Kandace Boudreaux throws to first base as East Ascension’s Evan Babin slides into second during the first inning of the Lady Gators’ 11-1 Class 5A regional playoff victory Friiday afternoon.

ST. AMANT – St. Amant stormed back from a one-run deficit to plate seven runs in the second inning and never looked back on way to an 11-1 Class 5A regional playoff mercy-rule victory over District 6-5A and traditional rival East Ascension Friday afternoon at Lady Gator Park.

“We knew we could turn it right around and change the momentum by having a good offensive inning,” St. Amant head coach Scott Nielson said. “Regardless of records, the better team today was the team that was going to win. We made the plays today. Hitting is very contagious and the kids fueled off each other.”

The victory marked the Lady Gators’ third of the season over EA and more importantly advanced No. 2 seed St. Amant (29-4) to the state tournament for the ninth straight year. St. Amant will face No. 10 Barbe at 6 p.m. Friday in the Class 5A quarterfinals of the LHSAA Top 56 Fastpitch State Tournament in Sulphur. No. 15 seed East Ascension ends the season with an overall record of 19-12.

“We definitely needed to score more runs in the first inning when we got the bases loaded,” East Ascension head coach Amy Pitre said. “Knowing that we are playing St. Amant, one run is not enough to win the game. Offensively, we left entirely too many people on base. I think once we went down, our heads got out of it and there was a lack of focus.”

Aime Parent got the win in the circle allowing one run on six hits and one walk in five innings.

“(Parent) mixes it up and changes speeds,” Nielson said. “That is normally her game. She is a location pitcher. She is not going to blow anybody away. She did not pitch well early and maybe missed her spot a few times. Fortunately we got away with a few of them and some we didn’t but softball is all about competing for 42 outs. She knuckles down when she has to  it and gives us quality pitches when we need them.”

Chelsea LeBlanc took the loss surrendering seven runs on six hits and two walks over one 1/3 innings. Rachel LeCoq pitched three 1/3 innings of relief surrendering four runs on four hits while striking out four.

“Chelsea struggled at the beginning,” Pitre said. “Rachel wasn’t warmed up but was able to get us out of a jam. She wasn’t on her “A” game either and when they are not on top of their game, we struggle.”

Evan Babin lined to center field to open the contest and Tiffany Robinson reached on an infield single to load the bases after a misplayed fielder’s choice at second on Brooke Courville’s bunt. LeCoq’s pop up was dropped to plate a run before shortstop Kandace Boudreaux had a hand in three consecutive outs, catching a pair of pop-ups and throwing home to catcher Emily Douglas for the second out on a force.

“I know we got a break with the early pull off the bag,” Pitre said. “A good team like St. Amant makes a mistake like that, you definitely have to take advantage of it and capitalize. When we have the middle of the lineup up and you can’t score more than one run or get the ball out of the infield, that is huge. We needed to score more to set the tone in the first inning and we failed to do that.”

Boudreaux sent the first pitch of the bottom of the second over the fence in left center to tie it 1-1 as momentum quickly shifted to the he Lady Gators.

“We knew we came out here for a fight and we had to fight back when they got that one run,” Boudreaux said. “We knew what could happen if we let them get any more. Since the beginning of the year, (our goal has been to advance to the state tournament). To push hard and get it done. Do what we need to do to win and fight to the last inning no matter if we are up or down.”

St. Amant loaded the bases on an error, walk and Gabrielle Templet’s bunt over the head of third baseman Brandi Cedotal. One out later, Kelly Luquette drew a walk to plate a run and Douglas’ liner pass first crossed two more. Melanie Parker’s liner over short plated two more before Boudreaux completed the damage with a double over third to make it 7-1.

“Kandace came up in the second and launched one,” Nielson said. “Those are the kind of players that we have. The good thing about it is we are pretty well experienced. We want to extend the inning and keep chopping wood and they did that. We do not need hitters – we need baserunners.”

Tiffany Robinson lined to right to lead off the third and LeCoq dropped a blooper to left before Jade St. Pierre drew a walk one out later to load the bases but the Lady Spartans got no runs with consecutive fly outs to left fielder Amanda Martin.

LeCoq hit Templet with one out in the bottom half before Martin popped a bunt over Cedotal and Douglas and Bridget Buquoi were both hit to plate a run.

Templet reached on a pop up out of the reach of second baseman Courville to open the bottom of the fifth and Luquette’s double to left plated two runs after Martin reached on a bunt. Buquoi’s suicide squeeze bunt ended the game as Luquette slid into home ahead of the throw to catcher Tiffany Robinson for the final tally.

“That is a tough call with the score being what it was but it was all about taking six outs away from them,” Nielson said.

“The girls played team softball today. We have 27 kids on our roster and a lot of them got into the game today because of the unique qualities and skills that they possess and bring to the table for the team. I am  proud of the way the kids competed  because that is what we ask them to do.”

St. Amant’s Kelly Luquette scores the deciding run in the bottom of the fifth inning on Bridget Buquoi’s suicide sqeeze bunt ahead of the throw to East Ascension’s Tiffany Robinson.