SULPHUR — The third time was the charm for 11th-seeded Jena.
The Giants lost one-run games to third-seeded Brusly High the past two times the teams met at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Softball Championships.
So it came as no surprise when the teams went to extra innings. Jena scored five runs in the top of the eighth to notch a 13-8 victory over Brusly in a Class 3A quarterfinal game that helped open the two-day tournament Friday at Frasch Park.
Brusly, the defending 3A champion, didn’t go quietly. The Panthers (23-9) loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Jena (22-6) got a pop up and two force outs to end the game that was quite different than Brusly’s 2-1 quarterfinal win in 2011 or its 1-0 semifinal victory a year ago.
The two teams combined for 31 hits, including 18 by the Giants. With the win, JHS advances to play North Vermilion (21-6), a 13-4 winner over second-seeded Kaplan in a semifinal set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
“This was a dogfight,” Brusly coach Beau Bouvier said. “Nobody wanted to back down. Even that last inning we had the bases loaded with the tying run on deck. We didn’t come through with hit. But they came through with plays so credit them.”
“We made mistakes. We didn’t play our best. You can’t fault those girls. They left it all out there on the field. We couldn’t be more proud of them as coaches for what they accomplished this year.”
Emilee Howard and Darian Thacker were the top hitters for Jena. Thacker set the tone with a home run in the first inning. She also had a double and finished with three hits and three RBIs. Howard added two doubles and three RBIs.
Brusly had its offensive leaders, too. Maddie Laprairie, Shelbi Willis and Jonette Fitzgerald each had two RBIs for the Panthers, who fell behind early but led 4-1 after three innings.
Jena scored four runs in the top of the fourth. But Brusly countered with two runs to tie it 6-6. The Giants squeezed in front 8-7 in the top of the seventh.
Again, the Panthers countered. Carlie Comeaux singled and eventually scored on a groundout by Laprairie, sending the game into extra innings.
Jena sent nine runners to the plate in the top of the eighth. Howard had a two-RBI double in the inning. Thacker and Braegan Burlew also had RBI hits.
Comeaux singled and Kaitlin David walked as Brusly loaded the bases before Jena settled in and got the final outs.
“Everybody is going to look at a pop up that we missed,” Bouvier said. “We almost had a double play, but a foot came off. It’s a game of inches. One play didn’t hurt us. We didn’t lose it on one play. (Jena) won it.”