HAMMOND — “It’s going to be a hitter’s game,” Denham Springs High softball coach David Bourque predicted prior to his team’s Class 5A regional round matchup with Pineville High.
Bourque was absolutely right. The teams combined for 29 runs, 33 hits, 3 home runs and a parade of base runners. The issue wasn’t decided until Denham’s winning pitcher Bailea Fucich powered a three-run, walk off home run over the left field wall with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give her team a 16-13 win.
The game was played on the artificial turf field at St. Thomas Aquinas High School because of a stormy weather forecast. The rematch of last year’s semifinal that also was won by DSHS featured power that had nothing to do with a lightning strike. With the win, the Yellow Jackets advance to play top-seeded St. Amant in quarterfinals at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Fast Pitch 56 state tournament in Sulphur.
“I just hoped that we’d make the plays down at the end than they did,” Bourque said. “And it worked out. They’re a well-coached team. It’s just a shame that one team had to lose tonight.”
Denham Springs (23-8) needed those plays at the end after the Rebels shook off a 4-0 first-inning deficit to take a 13-10 lead into the final inning.
Pineville (15-9) broke a 10-10 tie with three two-out runs in the fifth. Three straight RBI singles by Allison Peters, Hanna Evers and Courtney Ford put PHS in position to punch their ticket to Sulphur.
Sophomore pitcher Abby Robertson (14-9) gave up 10 runs in the first three innings, but came back to shut out DSHS on no hits through the fourth, fifth and sixth. She was helped by some sparkling defense including a running catch at the center field wall by Payton Collins, a sure-handed play by second baseman Peters on a hard-hit grounder, and a perfect throw by catcher Allie Williams to cut down a steal attempt.
“She (Robertson) looks like she should be a ballerina, but she’s tough,” Pineville coach Mark Mertens said. “She didn’t have her best stuff tonight and had trouble with her location, but she battled. She’s battled all year.”
Mertens said Collins had her best game. The senior, batting in the leadoff spot, went 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs scored.
Denham’s turnaround seventh began with an infield single by Brittany Case. After Bailey Hughes popped out, Harli Crow ripped a single to left which got through to the wall.
Crow scored on the error. After Jaden Acardo walked, Macey Monk got her fourth hit and fifth RBIs of the night, setting the stage for Fucich’s dramatic blast.
Fucich got the win after she replaced Allison Irby in the circle at the beginning of the sixth inning.
Along with Monk and Fucich, Case led the Jackets’ power surge with four hits, including an inside-the-park home run in the first, three runs and an RBI.
“I’m so excited, my mind is going a million miles an hour,” Case said after the game. “I knew I had led off three innings, and I’d managed to make something happen, and when I came up in the bottom of the seventh, I had confidence in my small ball game and I got a perfect slap toward the shortstop.”
Fucich said she was just trying to put the ball in play in her last at-bat.
“I just wanted to help my teammates get that last run. You just go up there to do what you can do,” she said.
Bourque added, “With the softball gods, you never know what will happen. You just hope you’ll get in position have that tying run or the winning run in scoring position.”