After 15 hits in his team’s first-round Class 3A playoff victory, Kaplan softball coach Shay Herpin said he believes his team’s inconsistency at the plate is a thing of the past.
In order to reach the Fast Pitch 56 state tournament for the fifth straight year, the Pirates realize the importance of having a well-rounded approach to complement their outstanding pitching and defense.
“The kids are feeling a little more confident at the plate,” Herpin said. “Our defense has been playing pretty good. It’s just that our offense hasn’t been scoring a lot of runs. We hit the ball well in our first playoff game (6-0 win over Loyola College Prep). We didn’t get the timely hits, but we’re getting some confidence back, and that’s what we needed.”
No. 3 Kaplan (21-6) hosts No. 11 Bolton (16-11) in a 3A regional-round game at 5 p.m. Saturday. The winner advancing next week to Frasch Park in Sulphur.
The Pirates, who started the season 8-1, are riding an impressive stretch that includes 10 wins in their past 12 games.
Herpin said that offensive improvement has played a key role in that stretch that’s been amplified by senior pitcher Abby Trahan, who has 11 shutouts this season and threw a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts in her team’s first playoff win.
Herpin’s hopeful his team’s postseason experience that includes a 6-5 loss in last year’s state title game will prove beneficial against Bolton, which advanced with an 11-4 win over Jewel Sumner.
“We’ve got a challenge ahead of us, and hopefully our kids will step up and come ready to play,” he said. “We’ve played in the playoffs a little more than they have, so we have that experience. Hopefully that will be a positive for us; that our kids take that into account and are a little comfortable than they are.”
CATHOLIC-NEW IBERIA BACK ON THE ROAD: For the second straight year Catholic-New Iberia won an opening-round road playoff game and as a reward gets another chance to play away from home.
The bigger motivation, though, staring at the No. 19 Panthers (19-10) heading into Saturday’s Class 2A regional at No. 3 Rosepine (21-4) at 1 p.m. is the fact they haven’t reached the state tournament since 2012.
“I told the players that none of them knows what it feels like,” Catholic-NI first-year coach Jennifer Moneaux said of the state tournament. “It’s an amazing feeling to step on that field. They said they were ready. We’ve got to show up, come out and play our game.”
Catholic-NI appears to be peaking toward a potential trip to the state tournament when the Panthers last reached the 2012 semifinals against Evangel.
Catholic’s won five of its past seven games, highlighted by a 6-1 road win over No. 14 Rapides.
Winning pitcher Maddie Hoag scattered five hits and walked one and received enough offensive support from her teammates with 11 hits.
Shortstop Hannah Smith and catcher Drew Gary each had two hits and first baseman Grace Landry added a three-run homer.
“It’s not easy going on the road twice and traveling over two hours again,” Moneaux said. “We know what it takes to get to where we want to be. They have their eyes on the prize. They want to be in the tournament.”
Saturday’s playoff games
Morgan City at Leesville, 3 p.m.
Bolton at Kaplan, 5 p.m.
Catholic-New Iberia at Rosepine, 1 p.m.
Iota at Winnfield, 2 p.m.
St. John at Vermilion Catholic, 1 p.m.
St. Edmund at Hanson, 1 p.m.
Dodson at Northside Christian, 1:30 p.m.