Lady Lions earn first-ever playoff victory
It’s been a historic season filled with firsts for Ascension Christian softball.
The Lady Lions won their first-ever district title, they earned a No. 3 playoff seeding for the first time and on Wednesday evening, they won the program’s first-ever postseason game.
Hosting parish and district rival Ascension Catholic, Ascension Christian was actually out-hit, 6-3, but the Lady Lions made just one more play, and the Lady Bulldogs made one more mistake. It all equated to a historic 2-0 victory for Ascension Christian that pushed them through to the Division-IV quarterfinals.
“Heading in, we weren’t really excited; we were focused,” Lady Lion head coach George Gutierrez said. “We’re a mature team. Their pitcher did a great job of keeping us off-balanced. We just kept working and working, and we made plays when we needed to make them. Finally, we put the ball where they couldn’t catch it.”
Just two weeks earlier, the two teams met in a very similar pitcher’s duel that ended with a 2-1 Lady Lion victory.
This time around, the first score didn’t come until the bottom of the sixth inning. Though, both squads had scoring opportunities before then.
In the bottom of the first, Layla Thompson came up with an infield single, and Hallie Dupre walked, but Lady Bulldog pitcher Sydney Viallon was able to escape the inning unscathed.
In the third, Mackenzie Marroy crushed a double, and in the fourth, Viallon hit a double of her own against the centerfield wall, but neither player could score for Ascension Catholic.
In the fifth, Sarah Esneault led off with a double, and Marroy walked. Reagan Tripode singled, but the bases were not loaded after a Lady Bulldog runner was gunned out at third by outfielder Emily Swanson.
Marroy and Tripode ended the inning stranded on base.
It looked like there was going to be another scoreless inning in the sixth as Ascension Christian was down to its final out of the frame, but Maddie Gautreau was hit by a pitch.
That’s when Michelle Juban crushed a triple against the centerfield wall, allowing Gautreau to score.
Juban later scored following a Lady Bulldog error on a Noelle Laiche grounder.
“We have some mature girls, so after they see the pitcher two or three times, they start knowing what she’s going to do,” Gutierrez said. “We picked up on her patterns. She still gave us some problems, but most pitchers have a pattern. We finally picked it up, and we were ready. We tell the girls to be patient and wait for the pitcher to miss. If she throws that outside pitch across the plate, we can hit it.
With a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh, Gautreau was able to turn the Lady Bulldogs away in order, sealing the victory for the Lady Lions.
Gautreau pitched a complete-game shutout, surrendering six hits and striking out nine batters.
“It all starts in the circle with Maddie,” Gutierrez said. “I think that was the difference in the game. Our pitcher is older, more mature. She’s been through a lot. She’s been our starting pitcher for five years. Our whole team really matured from last year. We keep our focus—whether we’re up one, down one or down by 10. Every run counts.”
From the plate, Ascension Christian had its struggles. Juban led the way, going 1-3 with the key RBI.
Viallon was a tough-luck loser in the circle for Ascension Catholic. She held the Lady Lions to just three hits and one earned run.
From the plate, Tripode was 2-3. She was the only player in the game with multiple hits. Marroy was 1-2 with a walk.
The victory pushed Ascension Christian through to the quarterfinals for a home game against sixth-seeded Cedar Creek.