Ascension's 5A teams bracing for softball season
Last season was a banner year for Ascension softball. All three of the parish's District 5-5A teams made it to the state semifinals in Sulphur.
And though Dutchtown fell just short in the championship game against Sam Houston, the three teams proved that Ascension is filled with some of the best softball players in the state. In 2016, things won't be any different.
With an abundance of talented players returning, Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant all have what it takes to make deep runs for a state title.
Out of the three teams, Dutchtown lost the most firepower.
The Lady Griffins had to part ways with seniors Bria White and Hope Vezinat. Each player hit at least .349 and combined for 50 RBIs. White was a East Central Community College signee; Vezinat signed with LSU-Eunice.
Another senior Dutchtown lost was Royelle Cobb, a Baton Rouge Community College signee. Senior Taylor Heck also signed with the school, but she will be forced to miss the season after tearing her ACL during the offseason.
The biggest returning piece for the Lady Griffins will be Southeastern signee Ali McCoy. Not only is McCoy a great hitter, she is one of the best pitchers in the state. Last season, she went 26-9 with a 1.77 ERA.
Dutchtown also returns all-district players in BRCC signee Bailey Gilleon, Blayne Pence and Rachel Newcomer.
"We lost a few good players with last year's senior class, but we are returning with a good group of upperclassmen and players who will transition well in spots that need to be filled," Lady Griffin head coach Nancy Ensminger said.
Dutchtown beat East Ascension to make it to last year's championship game. The Lady Spartans bring back almost all of their starters from that semifinal team.
Leading the charge from behind the plate and in the circle will be four-year starter Jessie Watts.
Watts is one of the most dominating pitchers in the state. The UL-Monroe signee went 23-8 with 173 strikeouts last year as she was named District 5-5A Co-MVP.
The Lady Spartan lineup will give any pitcher fits. Along with Watts, LSU signee Claire Weinberger returns. Also a four-year starter, Weinberger hit .582 last season with 28 RBIs.
East Ascension brings back seven other all-district players in Verlencia Jackson (Mississippi Valley State signee), Taja Landry, Callie Sholmire, Brea Aikens, Abby Anderson and Abby Gautreau.
"We're returning seven starters from last year's semifinal team. I feel our returners have a chance to lead the way to another successful season." East Ascension head coach Amy Pitre said.
Of course, East Ascension and Dutchtown will be looking to knock off reigning district champion St. Amant.
The Lady Gators will be trying to reach the Fast Pitch 56 for the 15th time in 16 years.
St. Amant lost one of the greatest players in the school's history with the graduation of UL-Lafayette signee Kara Gremillion. They also lost their ace Gabby Sharp--who went an astounding 24-1 last season.
Fortunately for the Lady Gators, they bring back the rest of their state semifinal roster.
They'll be relying on junior Renee Firmin to step up for them in the circle.
From the plate, they'll still be extremely dangerous--even without Kara Gremillion. Her sister, Kourtney--also a UL-Lafayette signee--returns as a .540 hitter.
Also, the immensely-talented sophomore Taylor Tidwell will return to the starting lineup. She recently committed to LSU.
Other returning all-district players for St. Amant include: Abby McKey, Taylor Trabeaux, Pamela Carbo and Jadyn Rumfellow.
"We need to build team chemistry early in the season and learn to play together as a unit," Lady Gator head coach Scott Nielson said.
The softball regular season officially begins on Feb. 22.