The Live Oak softball team suffered a heartbreaking one-run loss last season to fall one win shy of a return to the Fast Pitch 56 state tournament.
This year, the Eagles punched their ticket to Sulphur in emphatic fashion.
Senior Savannah Hall crushed a grand slam in the third inning to finish a 15-0 mercy-rule win over Evangel in the second round of the playoffs and leave Live Oak within three wins at Frasch Park this weekend of claiming its first Class 5A state championship.
Live Oak, seeded fifth, will face No. 13 seed Pineville on Friday as one of four Livingston Parish teams competing in the state tournament.
In 2A, No. 12 seed Doyle continues its season with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 4 Notre Dame.
Holden in Class B and Maurepas in Class C remain alive as No. 2 seeds and will face seventh-seeded Converse and Northside Christian, respectively, in the quarterfinals Friday.
Winners of Friday’s games earn the right to play Saturday when the state tournament concludes with semifinal and championship games in all seven classifications.
The two-way production of Hall has gone a long way in helping Live Oak (24-6) put behind the memories of last year’s second-round exit.
In the first playoff game of her senior season, Hall struck out 10 and allowed only three hits against Acadiana while also providing an RBI double and a sacrifice fly in the 4-1 win. Then, against Evangel, she struck out five in three shutout innings before ending the game with her second home run in three games.
Live Oak returns to the state tournament for the third time in four seasons.
In other softball news, Denham Springs coach David Bourque announced he would not be returning to the dugout in 2017 following a first-round loss to St. Amant.
Bourque spent seven seasons as the Denham coach, leading the Yellow Jackets to a 130-80 record, a pair of trips to the 5A championship game and six straight playoff appearances. He was named the 5A coach of the year in 2011.
Denham district track title
The Denham Springs boys track and field team scored 137 points in the District 4-5A championships at Walker last Thursday to win the district title.
Matthew Guzzardo won the pole vault, Austin Dunaway the discus and D’Angelo Stewart the high jump to lead the way. Thomas Kelton and Christian Mallet finished second and third, respectively, in the 3,200-meter run to help secure the championship.
Stewart shared the Outstanding Field Performer award with Walker’s Wes Price.
Scotlandville finished the meet with 127 points to finish second in the team standings with Walker placing third with 123 points.
On the girls side, Zachary had 235 points to run away with the team title.
Denham Springs standout Abigail O’Donoghue, who shared Outstanding Field Performer honors, won the high jump for the Yellow Jackets with a mark of 5 feet, 4 inches and placed in three other events. The top four finishers in each event qualified for the regional meet Thursday at Catholic High.
Livingston Parish was well-represented on The Advocate’s All-Metro soccer teams, with three boys and four girls making the list.
On the boys team, the Denham Springs duo of forwards Cam Hilliard and Cade Murry joined Live Oak’s Brayden Betz.
Hilliard, the Division I, District 3 Offensive MVP, made the All-Metro team for the second time after scoring 22 goals and dishing out 11 assists during his senior year. Murry joined his senior teammate on All-Metro after scoring a team-high 25 goals for the Yellow Jackets.
Betz was the MVP of Division II, District 4, in addition to earning All-Metro honors.
On the girls All-Metro team, Denham Springs was represented by midfielders Mak Maher and Erica Wilson and Live Oak by defenders Heather Hembree and Halle Mahfouz.
Maher had eight goals and an assist for the season. Wilson scored one goal and had one assist.
Hembree and Mahfouz helped Live Oak win a playoff game for the first time in school history.
Six from Livingston reach baseball playoffs
The state baseball playoffs got underway earlier this week with six teams from Livingston Parish continuing into the postseason.
Walker High (19-11) was seeded 16th in 5A and earned a first-round playoff game against No. 17 seed Archbishop Rummel, despite losing its final two games of the regular season to finish second in 4-5A.
Denham Springs (18-11) was seeded 21st in 5A after putting together a three-game winning streak that included a 5-3 victory over Walker. The Yellow Jackets were scheduled to open their postseason on the road Tuesday against No. 12 seed Destrehan.
Thanks in part to a perfect 7-0 record in 7-3A, Albany returned to the playoffs as the No. 24 seed in 3A and had a first-round matchup with No. 9 seed Lutcher.
The Hornets (16-11) closed the regular season with eight straight wins.
In 2A, Doyle (15-13) earned the No. 23 seed and was scheduled to open against No. 10 seed Archbishop Hannan on the road.
Holden (16-9) was the No. 13 seed in Class B and Maurepas (9-17) the No. 7 seed in Class C.
Crenshaw goes to state tennis tournament
Denham Springs senior Connor Crenshaw reached the Division I state tennis tournament in Monroe by reaching the quarterfinals of the Region 2 tournament last week.
As the No. 22 seed, Crenshaw was scheduled to face No. 22 seed Trevor Ramagos of Holy Cross on Monday in the first round of the state tournament.