Jay Artall noticed his young’s team mindset begin to change.
The Opelousas Catholic softball coach had watched his squad go through growing pains as the Vikings started the season losing 11 of their first 16 games. The team, which starts eight freshmen and has no juniors or seniors, finished the season on a high note. OCHS won six of its final eight games and claimed the District 5-2A championship.
“My team’s whole attitude has changed,” Artall said. “They have gotten more positive about the program and about wearing this uniform.”
That positive attitude continued in the opening round of the playoffs as No. 25 OCHS upset No. 8 Pope John Paul II 6-4. OCHS is one of eight teams from Acadiana that advanced to the regional round of the playoffs.
Opelousas Catholic (13-15) plays at No. 9 Springfield at 6 p.m. Friday.
A win Friday would give OCHS its first berth in the Fast Pitch 56 state tournament in Sulphur since 2012, when the Vikings reached the Class 1A semifinals. Two years before, the team also reached the Fast Pitch 56 in 2010 while playing in 2A losing in the quarterfinals.
Before arriving at OCHS two seasons ago, Artall took Westminster Christian to the Fast Pitch 56 his final two seasons but his current team doesn’t have that experience.
“These girls have never been to Sulphur and they don’t fully understand how important that is,” Artall said. “With that said, we feel like we can compete with anyone. As long as we reduce the number of walks and errors we can beat anyone.”
Catholic High-New Iberia, also of District 5-2A, is also confident heading into its next playoff game.
Behind a strong performance by pitcher Megan Robichaux (one run on three hits in seven innings) and not committing an error for the first time this season, Catholic-NI (16-9) went on the road to defeat No. 16 Pickering 6-1 in the opening round. Up next for the Panthers is a game with the top seed.
No. 17 Catholic-NI plays at No. 1 Calvary Baptist on Saturday. The time has yet to be determined.
Panthers coach Mark Suire said his team isn’t intimidated by the top seed.
“It’s not like we haven’t played tough competition this year,” Suire said. “I mean we are a 2A team that played the No. 1 team in 5A, so were not going to be fazed by it.”
Catholic-NI is looking for its first trip to the state tourney since 2012, when the team advanced to the semifinals. The year before the team took home the Class 3A championship.
“At this point you are still fighting, fighting for a chance to go to Sulphur,” Suire said. “I think we are reaching our potential at the right time.”