PLAQUEMINE — Trailing 5-1 after three innings Monday, coach Cynthia Prouty had her St. John softball team gather in front of the dugout with the hopes of lighting a fire to avoid early elimination.

“I just told them to keep it close and keep chipping away,” Prouty said. “I told them to don’t give up, have some faith in each other and good things will happen.”

While it may not have been a speech that will be recorded in the annals of softball history, it certainly was effective. After the impromptu team meeting, the Lady Eagles scored runs in their next three at-bats to pull out an 8-6 win over LaSalle and advance to the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.

The Lady Eagles will travel to face third-seeded Cedar Creek at 5 p.m. Friday. Cedar Creek was a 16-1 winner over East Beauregard.

“It’s great when we finally put it all together,” Prouty said. “That was exciting, wasn’t it?”

St. John junior Grace Acosta had just one hit on the day, but it came at the most opportune time. Her two-run single off Keeley Parham with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning gave the Lady Eagles the lead for the first time. It was the big blow in a four-run inning for St. John that proved to be the difference in the game.

“I was told to just put the ball in play, but it ended being a good hit,” Acosta laughed. “We’ve been working all week to get to this point. This was a team effort, and we did great.”

Acosta’s imprint on the game was not just at the plate.

She relieved St. John starting pitcher Kyndal Guillory with one out in the third inning and finished out the game, allowing just one earned run while striking out three in 42?3 innings to earn the win.

“That was really big,” Prouty said of Acosta. “I told her to not pitch scared and go right at them. She was relaxed, and we played some defense behind her.”

Things did not start out well for Guillory in the circle as the Lady Tigers, behind a lead off triple from freshman Ali Long, jumped out to a 2-0 lead before St. John even set foot in the batter’s box.

The Lady Eagles got a run back in the bottom half of the inning. LaSalle made use of the long ball in the third inning with solo home runs from Long and Alex Blackwell to go up 4-1, forcing Guillory out of the circle.

Long extended the lead an inning later with a double to the left-center field gap, scoring Holley Laird. Long led all hitters, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and missed the cycle by a single.

“She’s a freshman, but she has been our leading hitter,” LaSalle coach Derek White said of Long. “I was hoping that she would get a single for the cycle. That would’ve been cool.”

Parham went the distance in the circle for LaSalle, striking out four, but was tagged for seven runs in her final three innings.