For high school softball teams, it’s the Final Four plus one.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Fastpitch 56 State Softball Tournament begins Friday at Sulphur’s Frasch Park with quarterfinal games and possibilities.
It’s those possibilities, most notably the chance to claim an elusive state title, that motivate eight teams in their quest to bring home the Baton Rouge area’s first softball state title since 2006.
“This is what you play for,” Brusly High coach Beau Bouvier said. “We’ve had plenty of motivation since we lost last year. We’re going to take it one step and one game at a time. I know everybody says that, but it’s what you have to do.”
Action begins at noon with quarterfinal games set on seven fields, one for each classification competing. Quarterfinals games are scheduled for noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Semifinals are played Saturday morning, followed by title games Saturday night.
Brusly (30-2) figures to garner plenty of attention as a No. 1 seed in Class 3A. The Panthers face eighth-seeded Crowley at 4 p.m. on Field 15.
However, Class 1A and 5A also will be major points of interest for Baton Rouge area fans. Half of the quarterfinal field in 1A is from the Baton Rouge area and is led by third-seeded Catholic-Pointe Coupee (21-6). Second-seeded St. Amant (26-2) leads a three-team 5A contingent.
The CHSPC Hornets of coach Lauren Castle Doucet help jump start the tourney at noon. That’s when CHSPC meets No. 6 Oak Grove on Field 17. Catholic-PC is the highest remaining 1A seed.
Area teams are featured in all but one 1A quarterfinal as St. John-Plaquemine (22-10) meets No. 16 Westminster Christian at 2 p.m. At 6 p.m., No. 18 False River Academy (13-16) takes on No. 7 Ascension Catholic (22-6).
A year ago, Catholic-PC finished as the 1A runner-up to two-time defending champion Archbishop Hannan, also back again as a quarterfinalist. ACHS was the runner-up to the Hawks in 2011.
“The girls are more experience this year,” Doucet said. “We’ve got three seniors (Kayla Garrett, Jordyn David and Sydney Welch) who have done a great job of taking the reins and leading us.
“We know what to expect. What it takes to win it (title) is different for every team. You don’t want to be the first to blink. That means playing solid defense and not making mistakes. Not being the first to blink that a big key for us. And it’s something we’ve talked about.”
Though Hannan is a No. 5 seed, Ascension Catholic coach Kirk Delatte considers the Hawks to be the 1A favorite saying, “Until somebody beats them, Hannan still has to be the team to beat.”
St. Amant was the last Baton Rouge area team to claim a title in 2006. Others have come close since. In addition to the 1A teams, Parkview Baptist was the 3A runner-up a year ago. Brusly was the 3A runner-up in 2011.
The balance in 5A magnifies the challenges. Fourth-seeded Live Oak (24-5) takes on No. 5 Fontainebleau at 2 p.m., while St. Amant meets No. 18 Parkway at 4 p.m. Dutchtown (21-7) squares off against defending champion Sam Houston, a No. 19 seed, at 6 p.m.
This year’s 5A group is deceptive. Parkway is a true Cinderella, advancing to the tourney for the first time since 2006. LSU signee Baylee Corbello was unable to pitch for Sam Houston until the final stages of the season making the Broncos a much better than average low seed.
“You have to be solid in every phase of the game,” St. Amant coach Scott Nielson said. “You have to pitch well, play solid defense and hit the ball. The thing is, it really doesn’t matter how hits you get, the key is getting timely hits.”