Young Lady Gators looking to bring home another district title
St. Amant lost many of their top stars from last year's district-winning squad, but the road to the District 5-5A title will still go through the Lady Gators.
Until their league counterparts can prove that they can beat them, St. Amant will still be the favorites.
Just last season, the Lady Gators won yet another district championship by going a perfect 10-0 in league play. They finished with a 28-2 overall record, which earned them the No. 1 seed in the state.
St. Amant then cruised to two playoff victories and made their usual reservations in Sulphur for the State Softball Tournament. In a bit of a shocker, they were upset by Pineville in the quarterfinals.
The Lady Gators enter the season with that bitter taste still fresh in their mouths. They'd love to redeem themselves after last year's unfinished business, but it won't come as easy this time around.
St. Amant comes into this year trying to reload after losing most of their starting lineup.
However, head coach Scott Nielson thinks that his team's youth is deceptive.
"This team is young, but it doesn't lack experience. Most of the girls play tournament ball at a pretty competitive level in the summer," Nielson said.
Either way, St. Amant lost some big names from a year ago.
"We lost 10 seniors--seven of which signed with colleges. We need to build team chemistry early in the season and learn to play together as a unit," Nielson said.
The Lady Gators lost six of their top hitters in Madison Edmonston (LSU-Eunice signee), Ali Delany (Northwest Florida State signee), Jordan Hartman (LSU-Eunice signee), Carlie Whittington, Kayla Braud and Jaci Lavigne--both LSU-Eunice signees.
All six players hit at least .416. Edmonston, Delany and Hartman all hit at least .457.
Even with the losses, the Lady Gators should still have a dangerous lineup.
They return arguably the best player in the state in UL-Lafayette signee Kara Gremillion. In addition to being an excellent fielder at shortstop, Gremillion was lethal from the batter's box last season--batting .548 with six home runs and 38 RBIs.
Her sister Kourtney will step into the starting lineup for the first time this year. The junior first baseman made the most of her plate appearances last season--batting .448 with two homers and 12 RBIs.
Taylor Trabeaux and Abby McKey will also provide some power to the Lady Gator offense. Trabeaux was a .524 hitter last season.
Defensively, St. Amant lost their ace in Skylar Cook. Cook was a Peal River Community College signee and 21-game winner. Her ERA was a superb 1.71.
With Cook gone, in comes Gabrielle Sharp. Sharp was St. Amant's No. 2 pitcher a season ago. She went a perfect 9-0 with a 1.68 ERA.
Kara and Kourtney Gremillion and Renee Firmin will compliment Sharp in the pitching rotation.
All in all, it's the kind of team Coach Nielson is used to seeing at St. Amant. He said his team's greatest strengths will be their overall depth, their team speed, their offensive power and their desire.
With Dutchtown and East Ascension both returning so many of their stars, St. Amant's young roster will have to put it all together if they want to continue their reign of dominance in the parish and in District 5-5A.