Area softball teams eye state titles

Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- St. John's Shelbi Strickland, left, makes a grab in center field as teammates Jessie Brown (3) and Keri Yarbrough (9) look on during the fourth inning against Christian Life in the Class 1A bi district playoff softball game Monday in Plaquemine.
Advocate staff photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- St. John's Shelbi Strickland, left, makes a grab in center field as teammates Jessie Brown (3) and Keri Yarbrough (9) look on during the fourth inning against Christian Life in the Class 1A bi district playoff softball game Monday in Plaquemine.

Mention the “Power of Four” and the first thing that typically comes to mind is the Marvel Comics’ Avengers Alliance superheroes series.

There is another foursome looking to make its mark. This group has no supernatural powers.

Playing super softball this weekend — that’s the goal for Ascension Catholic, Catholic-Pointe Coupee, False River Academy and St. John-Plaquemine.

The four Baton Rouge area teams are quarterfinalists eyeing the top prize in Class 1A at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Softball Tournament that begins Friday at Sulphur’s Frasch Park with quarterfinal games.

“The four of us making it this far doesn’t surprise me,” Ascension Catholic coach Kirk Delatte said. “We’ve all been there before and we all play tough schedules to get ready to be at this point.

“Being able to play the larger schools we do from this area has helped get us ready for this. Now, it’s a question of who can finish it.”

All four teams have made their mark at the Fastpitch 56 tourney before. Third-seeded Catholic-Pointe Coupee (21-6) was the runner-up to two-time defending champion Archbishop Hannan last season. ACHS (22-6), the No. 7 seed, was the runner-up to the Hawks in 2011.

False River (13-16), a No. 18 seed, has past tourney experience and was a quarterfinalist last season. The Gators knocked off second-seeded Mangham in the regional round to advance.

Meanwhile, eighth-seeded St. John (22-10), also a quarterfinalist last year, makes its fourth straight tourney appearance and is the team that edged ACHS for the 9-1A title.

Another upset, Westminster Christian’s 1-0 win over top-seeded Cedar Creek, leaves CHSPC as the highest seed remaining. Action Friday on Field 20 begins with the Hornets of coach Lauren Castle Doucet playing No. 6 Oak Grove.

At 2 p.m., St. John takes on No. 16 Westminster, a District 6-1A rival of Catholic-PC and False River. Central Catholic-Morgan City, seeded fourth, plays No. 5 Hannan at 4 p.m. FRA faces Ascension Catholic at 6 p.m. to complete quarterfinal action.

“This season has been crazy,” Doucet said. “I think we’ve grown and matured as a team. We’ve had several players who have taken on new roles, and we’ve tried some different combinations right up until the last game of our district.

“(CHSPC players) would like another chance to play Hannan again or play for the title again. In our district, anybody is capable of winning any game. The tournament’s like that. It may come down to who gets hot at the tournament.”

Each team has a special story. Catholic-PC shuffled its lineup when two key starters from a year ago, pitcher Lauren David and shortstop Blair Bass, were seriously injured in an auto accident in September.

David has come back to play, while Bass is sitting out this season.

An eighth-grader, Ryann Bizette, and David have shared time on the mound. Center fielder Phoebe Fabre moved in from center field to shortstop.

St. John is led by seniors Kamryn Theriot and Jessie Brown. Theriot is 17-5 on the mound and is hitting .573 for the Eagles. Brown, who plays center field, is at .431, while first baseman Brooklyn Pearce is at .375. A turning point was a player’s only meeting led by the two seniors at a midseason tourney.

“I’m pleased with how we’ve played the last three,” St. John coach Oliver “Cricket” Crockett said. “There are still things we need to be better at, like getting that timely hit.

“But I honestly don’t feel like we’ve put together a complete game yet. We’ve been close and I’m hoping we can do that this weekend.”

Ascension Catholic has a different look this year that includes freshman pitcher Julia Beck (13-3). The Bulldogs have one of the top 1A hitters in center fielder Nancy Guillot, who is batting .600. Shortstop Maggie Blanchard (.441) and third baseman Sydni Gregoire (.424) are other leaders.

“She (Beck) is ahead of where I thought she would be as a freshman,” Delatte said. “She threw a no-hitter in our game (a 1-0 win over Merryville), the other day. We play good defense. Getting big hits in big situations is going to be big, like it always is, this weekend.”

False River coach Tara Shamsie opted to play a tough schedule to get her team prepared for the playoffs. The move has paid off thus far. Kim David is the top pitcher for the Gators. Shortstop Savannah Lejeune (.411) and center-fielder Ashley Vosburg (.361) are the offensive leaders.

The story in the playoffs has been offense — FRA has scored 24 runs, including 10 in its win over Mangham. A combination of offense and a much-improved defense is pivotal this weekend, according to Shamsie.

“There were games when we committed too many errors,” Shamsie said. “The offense has always been there. We need to continue playing the way we have been.

“I believe any of the teams is capable of winning it. We’ll see who has the best weekend.”