Loretta Girouard was honored twice Wednesday.
The mother of St. Thomas More softball player Janie Girouard, who has Down syndrome, was first honored as players and fans from STM and Teurlings Catholic took part in a prayer and then released pink balloons into the afternoon sky before the annual “pink out” game for breast cancer awareness.
Then the team that her and her daughter loved so much went out and defeated its arch rival 5-2, thus sweeping the regular-season series, just three days after Loretta’s death on Easter Sunday from Stage 4 breast cancer.
“We have been focused on telling them to be relaxed,” longtime STM coach Andria Waguespack said. “We just wanted them to play in the moment. That is always the bottom line. They did that (Wednesday), and they honored her because of it.”
“This was the perfect way to honor Ms. Loretta,” junior catcher Bailey Hemphill said.
As for the game, STM (12-9, 8-2 in District 5-4A) needed only a few minutes to strike first.
Leadoff hitter Hemphill sent a pitch from Teurlings ace Summer Ellyson soaring over the right-center field wall. That solo shot wouldn’t be the last time the University of Alabama commitment homered off Ellyson. After Kaitlyn Norse led off the third with a single to shallow right field, Hemphill launched another pitch from Ellyson over the wall.
Hemphill went 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs and a pair of intentional walks.
“I wasn’t really looking for a particular pitch,” Hemphill said. “As long as it was on the white line I was swinging.”
Teurlings (19-7, 7-2 in District 5-4A) managed to score a run in the bottom of the second as Sydnel Manuel drove in Ashlin Naquin on a hard hit single. Naquin then hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth which trimmed the Cougars’ lead down to a single run.
Teurlings, though, wouldn’t get another real chance of tying it as Whitney Romero silenced the Rebels bats the rest of the way, giving up only two hits in the final three innings.
Romero picked up the win after giving up two runs on seven hits with three walks. She struck out nine in seven innings.
“I was just focused on hitting my spots,” Romero said. “I came out like I always do. I just think I got into a groove a little sooner (Wednesday).”
Meanwhile, St. Thomas More added a few insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Norse drew a walk, and Hemphill was then intentionally walked. Two batters later, Romero drove them both home with a two-out double.
That was enough to secure the team’s second win over Teurlings this season as STM won the first meeting 4-3 on March 23.
Ellyson was tagged with the loss after surrendering five runs on five hits with six walks and 13 strikeouts.
“With such a young and inexperienced team we are actually still learning the game,” Waguespack said. “I am really proud of them. That is a great team over there. To beat them twice is a huge confidence boost for us.”
With the victory, there is now a three-way tie atop the district standings. STM, Teurlings and Cecilia all have two losses in 5-4A play with each team having two or less district games left before the regular season wraps up in less than a week.
Teurlings plays at Westgate at 4 p.m. Thursday and wraps up its district slate with a game at Northside on Monday. Cecilia hosts Northside on Thursday and then plays Westgate on Saturday. STM wraps up district play at Breaux Bridge at 4 p.m. on Monday
That means that despite some early nondistrict woes and a five-game losing streak, the Cougars still have a chance of claiming at least a share of the district crown. An accomplishment that Loretta surely said the Cougars could do.
“One of our main goals was to win a district championship,” Romero said. “Now everyone on the team realizes that we can do that. We believe we can.”