SPORTS

ACHS will have new coach, new look in 2022

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Noelle Laiche is Ascension Christian’s top returning hitter, and she’ll also be the Lady Lions’ top pitcher in 2022.

Last year, the Ascension Christian softball team completed the greatest season in the program’s history, coming just one win away from the Division-I state title game.

But things will be very different for Lady Lion softball this season. There is plenty of change on the horizon.

Ascension Christian will have a new head coach in 2022, although, he will not be new to his players.

Longtime Lady Lion assistant Dustin Bagwell has become the team’s new head coach, taking over for George Gutierrez.

Shortly after Ascension Christian’s trip to the state tournament, Gutierrez decided to step down after coaching the team for four years. He said that the decision was the result of health issues he had been dealing with since the fall.

Gutierrez took over as head coach in 2018. 

In his tenure, the Lady Lions went 49-30 overall and made three playoff appearances. The only year they didn’t make the postseason was in 2020, when the season was canceled midway through due to COVID-19.

Last year, Ascension Christian won its first-ever district championship and hosted a postseason game as a No. 3 seed in the Division-IV playoffs. They went on to win the program’s first-ever playoff game. 

From there, Ascension Christian reached the state tournament, but the Lady Lions fell short in the semifinals against defending champion Catholic of Pointe Coupee.

Bagwell now takes over as head coach, and he’ll be faced with a major challenge in his first season. He inherits a Lady Lion roster that will be missing its top six hitters, who combined for 17 home runs, 83 RBIs and a .466 batting average.

They’ll be without first-team all-district standouts Halle Dupre, Layla Thompson, Michelle Juban, Skye Fontenot, Harper Dupre and Maddie Gautreau.

Gautreau was not only one of the Lady Lions’ top hitters, but she has been the team’s ace from the circle since she was in junior high. She was the District 7-1A MVP last season.

“We lost our superstar senior pitcher Maddie Gautreau, who held down the circle for us for the last six years. She pitched 52 innings last season and ended her high-school career with just over 500 strikeouts,” Bagwell said.

But it won’t be a complete rebuild for Bagwell in 2022. The Lady Lions still bring back some productive players, including four all-district performers.

Sophomore Noelle Laiche will step in and be Ascension Christian’s new ace in the circle. As a freshman outfielder in 2021, Laiche hit .421. From the circle, she was 1-0.

The Lady Lions also return shortstop Mattie Dixon, who hit .383 last season and was named second-team all district.

Also returning for Ascension Christian will be two honorable-mention all-district selections in CJ Raven and Emma Guy. Raven hit .333 with four home runs last season.

Coach Bagwell said that the team’s expectations of winning district should not waver despite the loss of so many top players.

“We have a solid nucleus of players returning from the team that won the district and made the state tournament in Sulpher last season, but after graduating six seniors, we've also got a lot of holes to fill with some young, new faces,” Bagwell said. “We've got a great group of girls, and I look for them to improve steadily as the season progresses and some of the younger players get some innings in. I expect us to once again compete for the district title and be playing playoff softball come mid-April.”