OH SO CLOSE: Lady Bulldogs fall to Ouachita Christian in 1A championship
SULPHUR - Ouachita Christian’s Gracie Thaxton outdueled Ascension Catholic’s Ashlyn Grisaffe in the circle as the Lady Eagles claimed the Class 1A state championship with a 3-1 victory in the finals of the LHSAA Top 56 Softball State Tournament at Frasch Park.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” Ascension Catholic head coach Darrell Landry said. “I underestimated their pitcher. She is the real deal. She kept us off balance, changed speeds a lot and her ball had a lot of motion on it and confused our batters. She negated our hitting attack and they made the plays when they had to.”
“Ashlyn hadn’t been hit like that in a long time. They had some very hard shots. They earned it. They deserve it.”
No. 6 seed Ascension Catholic, a three-time state champion, played for a trophy for the first time since falling to Ridgewood in finals in 2004. The Lady Bulldogs defeated South Cameron 2-1 in the quaterfinals before ousting defending state champion Delcambre 7-0 in the semifinals.
“The kids played with all their heart and soul and we laid it on the line,” Landry said. “The kids stayed focused the whole time. I think the best is yet to come. We expect to be here every year. (Our seniors) have played in the finals twice and gone to the tournament five out of six years. I appreciate all the effort and time they put into the program. They are wonderful kids and have a bright future in this world.”
This year’s top seed, Ouachita Christian, fell to Delcambre in 13 innings during last year’s final after ousting the Lady Bulldogs in the semifinals.
“We talked about that game, but we didn’t want it to be the driving force behind this game,’’ Ouachita Christian head coach Joy Thomas said. “We just wanted the girls to learn from that game and help them be composed in pressure situations.’’
Grisaffe surrendered three runs on six hits while striking out three. Over the tournament, Grisaffe pitched 20 innings, striking out 24 and surrendering just 13 hits in a 25-hour span.
“We were going to go with Ashlyn,” Landry said. “She got us this far and she pitched her heart out. Her ball wasn’t quite moving as much in this game as what it usually does and they caught up to it a little bit but she is a great kid and put her heart and soul into it.”
Thaxton struckout 11 over seven innings surrendering just three hits.
Kacie Linzay grounded pass short with one out in the bottom of the first but was left stranded.
Grisaffe and Thaxton settled into a dual sending batters down in order until Nancy Guillot grounded off Thaxton, who struckout Allison Falcon and Annie Ourso to get out of the inning unscathed.
Linzay lined pass short to open the bottom half but Grisaffe went unscathed forcing a pop up, line out and fly.
Alayna Falcon reached on an errant throw on a grounder to short to open the fifth inning and Bailey Landry beat out an infield single. Following Katie Gianelloni’s sacrifice bunt, Maggie Schexnayder dropped a hit over third to score pinch running Michelle Prejeant.
The Lady Bulldogs attempted a suicide squeeze but the umpire ruled the ball hit batter Ali Bouchereau’s leg and Guillot popped up a bunt to end the inning.
“We had a hard time figuring out their pitcher so we went to the small game and it started working,” Landry said. “We got one run in and went for the juggler. (Bouchereau) laid it down like she is supposed and (Landry) was safe at home but unfortunately the umpire ruled that the ball when off the batter’s leg. He is going to have to prove that to me because that was our second run with another possible one at third. I thought that was the critical call in the game and we are going to have to live with it.”
Hanna Edwards dropped a double to the left gap to open the bottom half and Kayla Smith reached on a throwing error from second base that allowed a run. Two outs later, Abby Kalil and Linzay dropped back to back doublex to opposite gaps off Grisaffe each scoring runs to give Ouachita Christian a 3-1 lead.
Anna Lassere reached on a pass ball on a third strike to open the sixth and Allison Falcon reached on a fielder’s choice before stealing second but Thaxton struckout Annie Ourso and Alayna Falcon to end the inning.
Brittany Gates grounded pass second to open the bottom half but Grisaffe regrouped to sandwich grounders around a strikeout.
Landry reached on an error to the circle to open the seventh inning but Thaxton retired the next three batters popping up Bouchereau to left field in foul territory to end the game.