Zachary softball coach Leslie Efferson-Yellott has issued a challenge to her team and specifically for its eight seniors: Leave the program with an unforgettable legacy.
The 2015-16 Lady Broncos certainly have given it their best try. After defeating Walker 6-5 on April 7, the Lady Broncos are 20-4 overall and 6-1 atop District 4-5A as the season heads into the home stretch toward the playoffs. Zachary also is ranked second in the state and 14th in the nation as a result of strength of schedule, statistics and a winning record against quality opponents.
Efferson-Yellott, who has been at the helm for 10 years, credits last season’s hardships for laying the foundation for this season’s success. The 2014-15 squad dropped some games early and wasn’t playing to its full potential. Toward the middle of the season, she said the team came together and began believing it could reach its long-term goals established at the beginning of the season. That squad finished 20-12, and the majority of the starters this year played a year ago.
In addition to experience, the squad has chemistry.
“This 2015-16 team has a large number of seniors that have experienced a great deal of adversity over the years,” Efferson-Yellott said. “Athletes with true character are committed to persevere through hard times long enough to win. The players that have fought for and put their faith in this program are the driving forces behind our undeniable team chemistry.”
She also credits support from the school’s administration and “one of the best groups of softball parents that I’ve ever experienced working with at the high school level.”
Other factors include having a dominant pitcher (Baylie Doiron) and an extremely skilled catcher (Lakyn Wales) as well as selfless players with defined roles within the team, dedication to a common goal and an invested coaching staff.
Doiron’s development as a pitcher has been a huge windfall: As a freshman, she put her faith in Efferson-Yellott as her pitching coach and trusted the process. They developed one moving pitch per year. Doiron, who is 20-4, is one of two pitchers invited to play for the East in the All-Star softball games in May in Monroe. She will attend Spring Hill College in the fall and play softball there. Wales will attend LSU-Eunice to play softball.
“Baylie has worked extremely hard over the past four years to continually add to and improve her pitching repertoire,” Efferson-Yellott said. “She is one of the hardest-working pitchers I have ever had the privilege of working with in my career. Baylie is now the ultimate weapon in that she is aggressive, powerful, a consistent offensive threat and defensively is responsible for multiple outs per game through strikeouts.
“There is a bond and a mutual understanding between the two of them that is hard to describe. A pitcher is only as good as her catcher, and Baylie fully understands how instrumental Lakyn is to her pitching success,” the coach said.
Defensively, the Lady Broncos’ infielders and outfielders have done a great job making the routine plays this season. And senior leadership has been a cornerstone strength for this team. Besides Doiron and Wales, they include Hannah Dixon, starting varsity second baseman; Malloree Milton, third base; Tegan Scott, right field; Mya Anderson, second base/middle infield; Mia Anderson, shortstop; and manager Caly James.
“These seniors have contributed to our success by the amount of loyalty and dedication they display towards our team on a daily basis,” Efferson-Yellott said. “Most of them have spent the last four years together, and now view one another as family instead of merely teammates. They are selfless individuals who support the coaching staff and work relentlessly towards one common goal.”
As for the postseason, she said the team will prepare and play as they have during the regular season.
“Every game, every out, every pitch, every second matters,” she said. “We will continue to work together on practice days to improve our fundamental skills, and scout potential future opponents to gain as much information as possible to hopefully increase our margin of success. More importantly, we must make it our goal to have fun, stay relaxed and enjoy the little time we have remaining together as ‘TEAM 48.’
“After the last pitch of the season is thrown, this team will never be assembled again to compete on a high school field at this level. We will make the most of the opportunity at hand, enjoy the rest of this journey, play with no regrets, and walk away knowing that we were all lucky to be part of something incredibly special.”
Send sports news, photos and stats to Howard Arceneaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.