The road to the Fast Pitch 56 in Sulphur will begin on the road for several Acadiana softball teams.
Less than half of the 17 teams that received playoff berths Thursday from the LHSAA will be playing at home. Those teams that earned home playoff games were: Teurlings Catholic, Rayne and Beau Chene in Class 4A; North Vermilion, Notre Dame and Kaplan in 3A, Vermilion Catholic in 1A and Northside Christian in Class C, which earned a first-round bye.
For the other nine teams, the journey to a possible state championship will start with a bus trip.
The defending Class 4A state champions are one of those teams as No. 18 St. Thomas More opens the playoffs at No. 15 Belle Chasse.
“You always hope for a home game in the first round,” STM coach Andria Waguespack said. “But power rankings only get you in the playoffs, but it’s up to you to show up and play.”
The Cougars returned only two starters from last year’s title team and are dealing with the growing pains associated with a young team. At one point, STM was 9-9 before finishing strong, winning five of its last six games to claim a share of the District 5-4A title.
If both STM and Teurlings Catholic win in the first round, the archrivals would face each other in the second round.
“We still have a lot of room to grow as a team,” Waguespack said. “We have seven starters with no playoff experience, so that means every day is learning experience. Everybody is pretty excited, and I am looking forward to seeing what we do.”
One of STM’s fellow District 5-4A champions finds itself on the road as well as No. 17 Cecilia plays at No. 16 Lutcher. Cecilia had long appeared to be hosting a home game but early-season defeats may have made the difference coach Cody Champagne said.
“We played Kaplan in the finale, and I was hoping that if we won that it would move us up but we lost the game,” Champagne said. “It is what it is. I think what hurts us is that early in the season we lost to teams with losing records.”
Cecilia is aiming for its first playoff win since 2010 when the team beat DeRidder 6-3 in the opening round. Champagne said if his team’s bats can catch up with the rest of his team’s game that they have a great chance for a victory.
“We haven’t fully clicked at the plate yet,” Champagne said. “The pitching and defense have been there, but I just hope that the hitting will all come together.”
Like Cecilia, Catholic High-New Iberia thought they had a chance to play in front of its fans. No. 17 Catholic High-NI opens the Class 2A playoffs at No. 16 Pickering at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“I think it is fair,” Catholic-NI coach Mark Suire said. “Every team thinks it deserves to be higher or lower every year. The reality is that this is the system we have in place.”
Catholic-NI is looking to put last year’s playoff disappointment behind them. Catholic-NI was upset 13-2 at home in the opening round by No. 25 St. Thomas Aquinas. But last year’s team had six freshmen starting, and Suire said that will benefit his team this time around.
“I feel like we’re more experienced and more mature than last year’s team,” Suire said. “I think that will help us.”
No team in the area was happier about receiving a road playoff game than Acadiana. The program ended a 20-year playoff drought Thursday as Acadiana earned the No. 27 seed in the Class 5A bracket and will play at No. 6 East Ascension at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Acadiana fell to East Ascension 7-0 at the Live Oak tournament earlier this season.
“It is the best feeling when you finally get to see it in print,” Acadiana coach Kevin Smith said. “We played them during the regular season and didn’t know what to expect. But now we do, and it will be great to see us back out there playing.”