When a team is seeded in the top five on a 32-team bracket fans automatically assume success will follow.
But is a trip to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Softball tournament next week in Sulphur really a sure thing for top-seeded St. Amant High, No. 3 Live Oak High and fifth-seeded Denham Springs High of Class 5A?
Not according to the coaches who are busy preparing their teams for regional-round playoff games at home Friday. The 5A group leads a contingent of 11 Baton Rouge area teams looking to advance to the tourney with a regional victory on either Friday or Saturday.
“Last year we were the team that made an early exit,” Denham Springs coach David Bourque said. “Airline beat us in the first round. I think the great competition you’ve had in both districts has helped all of us get ready.
“But I tell our girls that during the regular season you play for a district title and a (power-rating) number. Once you get that number and the playoffs start, there are no guarantees. You have to be ready to play every inning all out.”
The District 4-5A Yellow Jackets (20-5) host 12th-seeded Northshore, also a 20-win team, at 5 p.m. Friday at North Park. The matchups are equally intriguing for St. Amant (29-2) and Live Oak (22-3).
St. Amant of District 5-5A hosts No. 16 Sulphur at 4 p.m., while Live Oak hosts another Lake Charles area team, No. 14 Sam Houston, the defending 5A state champion, at 5 p.m. at Live Oak Youth Park.
“We understand that Sulphur is a solid team that is capable of winning any game they play,” St. Amant coach Scott Nielson said. “It starts at the top with their coach Julie Mancuso, a Hall of Famer, who is a good friend of mine.
“In the past they’ve played a lot of small ball with slappers. This year they’ve got several players who are capable of hitting the ball a long way.”
Nielson’s Gators are led by pitcher Skylar Cook, who is 20-2 with 118 strikeouts in 122.1 innings. Shortstop Kara Gremillion, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette commitment as a junior, is hitting .579 with six home runs and 38 RBIs. Outfielder Kayla Braud is an LSU-Eunice signee who is batting .457 with 9 HR and 52 RBIs.
Live Oak coach Michelle Morris cautions those who discount Sam Houston’s chances because star pitcher Baylee Corbello graduated and is now a freshman standout at LSU.
“I know what people are saying, and I know their pitcher was great,” Morris said. “But I also know one person doesn’t make a team. They hit the ball well last year and they had some struggles early in the year, but they’re hitting it well now. We’re facing the team that’s playing great now.
“It should be a good match-up because we’re a different team than we’ve been in the past when we relied so much on pitching and defense. We’re better offensively to go along with the pitching and defense. It’s s different mentality.”
Junior left-hander Amanda Holliday (14-3, 1.94 ERA) is set to get the start for LOHS. Second baseman Payton Gremillion (.446), first baseman Virginia Cacioppo (.439) and third baseman Giselle Ash (.405) are the top hitters for the Eagles.
The leaders for Denham Springs include pitchers Holley Morrison and Lucy Lewis. DSHS’ top hitters are Brittany Case (.560) and catcher Jaden Acardo, who has 11 home runs.
CATHOLIC-POINTE COUPEE 5, HOUMA CHRISTIAN 0: In New Roads, Ryann Bizette (15-1) pitched a shutout and struck out 12 to lead the Hornets to the state tournament.
Claire Roy went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs for CPSPC (24-3), which broke a scoreless tie in the fifth and added four more in the sixth. Houma Christian was held to two hits.