Since they were freshmen, Ursuline Academy seniors Meta Hight and Jenna Jurisich have been part of softball teams that made the postseason.
Those trips ended in disappointment, however, with regional losses in 2013 and 2012, and a quarterfinal loss in 2011.
Now the eighth-seeded Lions (21-9) find themselves back in the Class 4A quarterfinals. They will be looking for a reversal of recent fortune when they take on 17th-seeded West Ouachita in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Fast Pitch 56 State Tournament on Friday at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
On paper, Ursuline would seem to be favored because of its seeding. But the Lions know they can’t overlook West Ouachita, which upended Cabrini in a regional. Cabrini was 4A’s top seed, and Ursuline’s district rival before being bumped by West Ouachita.
But the Lions have the dynamic duo of Hight and Jurisich to lead the way, and that’s been enough to help them get this far.
The pair splits pitching duties. Hight threw a one-hitter while striking out 14 in Ursuline’s regional against Plaquemine. Both players have batting averages hovering around .400.
Hight and Jurisich are the Lions’ only senior starters for the. The rest of the starting lineup is comprised of two juniors, one sophomore, two freshmen and two eighth-graders.
“The younger players, this will be their first trip to state,” Hight said. “(Jurisich and I) can relay some of what it’s like there to the other players. We don’t know much about our opponent, but we do know they beat Cabrini in the playoffs and any team that beats Cabrini is a good team.”
Jurisich said she’s ready and willing to impart any knowledge of the state tournament to her underclassmen teammates.
“They’re great,” Jurisich said. “They know what to do. We just have to work as a team. If we do that, I think we can play with anyone in the state.”
Ursuline coach Steven Dickey also is new to the state tournament, though he has years of experience as an assistant. He said his team is “vastly improved at the plate and in the field” and that his team’s youth shouldn’t be a factor.
“We’re very young, but we have these two seniors that lead the way,” he said. “Jenna is hitting leadoff and is hitting .402 as both a shortstop and a pitcher. As good as she is at the plate, I think a lot of people don’t realize how good she is defensively. I think she’s one of the best fielding shortstops in the five-parish area.
“As for Meta, she’s in center field now when she’s not pitching. She hits in the three hole and is at .368. She’s really made the team much better from that spot (in the lineup.) She’s changed the way the team is working.”