Former Lady Gators having big freshmen years at LSU-Eunice

Kyle Riviere

They lit it up at St. Amant and now, as freshmen at LSU-Eunice, the four former Lady Gators are showcasing their skills once again.

Just recently, Madison Edmonston had the tremendous honor of being named the national Division II Player of the Week. The freshman centerfielder certainly earned that distinction.

In that award-winning week, Edmonston batted a ridiculous .636 with one home run, three RBIs, four stolen bases, two walks and she scored one run.

This wasn't some fluke occurrence. She has been on a torrid pace all season long.

In a win last weekend against Faulkner, she went 2-3 with a homer, two RBIs and a run scored.

A week before that, the Lady Bengals swept Coffeyville in a weekend series. In the two wins, Edmonston went a perfect 5-5 with two RBIs and five runs scored. It all has equated to her being one of the hottest hitters in the nation right now, but she's not alone. Her Lady Gator teammates have played quite well in their freshman years as well.

Jordan Hartman, Jaci Lavigne and Kayla Braud have all seen their share of action in their first seasons playing college softball.

In the Faulkner series, Lavigne went 1-2 with two runs scored in the second game. In the second game against Coffeyville, she went 1-2 and scored another run.

In a tournament at Faukner the weekend prior, she went 2-3 and scored two runs against Wallace Community College. In the same tournament, Braud collected an RBI against Jefferson Dallas.

Braud went 2-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored in a win at a Pearl River, Miss., tournament last month.

Hartman has had her success as well. In a 9-1 win over Enterprise State Community College in a tournament in Gulf Shores, Ala., last month, she went 1-2 with two RBIs and a run scored.

As well as the four have been playing as true freshmen, it's something their former St. Amant head coach Scott Nielson always expected.

"It doesn't surprise me at all. They're really good kids, and they've played competitive softball for a very long time," Nielson said.

The four former Lady Gators are also teammates with a former Ascension product in freshman Carmisha Payton. Payton was an All-State player at East Ascension last year, and she has also had a very productive freshman campaign.

The girls have helped the juggernaut that is LSU-Eunice have another dominating season.

Coming off of two straight NJCAA Division II national championships, the Lady Bengals put together a recent 16-game winning streak and are cruising at 31-3 overall.

"It's one of those things where those girls started playing when they were really young kids--8 and 9 years old. They put in the time and the effort and always had the energy for it," Nielson said. "I couldn't be happier for them. In our program, we try to prepare the kids for that opportunity if they want it, and they've taken the opportunity and run with it."

St. Amant's program has always been on the short list of teams competing for a state title each year. And when it comes to their players, they always seem to be ready for the next level once their days as Lady Gators come to a close.

From Kasey Nielson at Southeastern, to the current four St. Amant players at LSU-Eunice, to Skylar Cook at Peal River Community College, to Ali DeLany at Northwest Florida State and to Kara Gremillion--a recent UL-Lafayette signee, St. Amant is well-represented at the next level.

Coach Nielson thinks it has a lot to do with all the hours the girls put in before they even reach his program.

"The good news is that a lot of the girls that play here, when they do get to us, they've been playing since they were young, so we're not teaching the kids to throw and catch," Nielson said. "We're trying to take those intermediate skills and turn them into advanced skills.

"So, because of the experience that they have, by the time they get here, it really affords us the opportunity to do that."