As the John Curtis softball team gets ready for the annual Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Fast Pitch 56 State Tournament in Sulphur, it is as a reigning champion — but not as a defending champion.

After winning back-to-back Class 2A titles, the Patriots have moved up to Class 3A this season. That means that they will not get to defend their title and there will be a new 2A champion. There also will be a new 3A champion, and the Patriots are one of eight teams in the hunt.

Curtis is 27-2 and the No. 1 seed in Class 3A. On Friday, the Patriots take on No. 8 seed Evangel Christian Academy in a noon quarterfinal. The winner will advance to Saturday morning’s semifinal against the Buckeye-Notre Dame winner. The winner of that game will advance to the state championship game at 7 p.m.

Patriots coach Jerry Godfrey said the move up in classification will make for an interesting trip, but not much else will be different for his team.

“The competition is just so much better,” he said. “But everything else is pretty much the same.

“We’re pretty much the same team we had last year, except for our center fielder. We’re a senior-laden ballclub.

“For the kids, that makes it easier because they know what to expect. They don’t have any questions about (the trip), and they know what to expect. Friday, we’re going to get up and go play the game.”

The Patriots are also familiar with Evangel, a three-time champion, from 2009-11. But in 2012, Curtis defeated the Eagles 2-0 for the Class 2A title. That game saw then-sophomore pitchers Katie Brignac of Curtis and Carolina Sanchez of Evangel in an epic showdown. Today’s game will see them meet again.

“She was very good three years ago, and she’s very good now,” Godfrey said about Sanchez.

Sanchez pitched a perfect game in her team’s 8-0 bidistrict victory over Patterson.

But the Patriots put their faith in Brignac, who led her team to a 25-0 season as their only pitcher in 2012. This year things are a little different in that Brignac has junior Peyton Pigniolo backing her up. The two have shared pitching duties this season.

“It is good,” Brignac said. “If I ever do get in trouble, I do have someone to come in and help me out. My sophomore year, it was all on me. It is good to know I have someone there. It takes a little of the pressure off of me.”

“She is really picking it up this year,” Godfrey said. “She’s really a very good pitcher.”

And Curtis is a very good team on a mission.

“For the seniors, it’s our last time,” Brignac said. “We don’t get another chance. And it’s a bond we have. We’ve all been together since the seventh grade.”