Mount Carmel Academy returned to Sulphur on Friday looking to finish off what it came just short of last season when it lost in the title game.
But instead, the Cubs left with a heartbreaking 9-8 loss to Denham Springs in the Class 5A quarterfinals of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Softball Tournament at Frasch Park.
“We are upset, obviously,” Mount Carmel coach Jake Pierron said. “But we are excited because we know we left everything on the field. We talked about that before we left the hotel to leave it on the field and whatever happens, happens. We feel like we did that.”
The Cubs, who were chasing their second state title after winning it all in 2008, had a chance late.
Bases loaded. Two outs. Full count.
But Samantha Dares grounded out to second to end it.
“We had our best hitter up, and that’s where we wanted to be,” said Pierron. “She has done a great job all year and she did a great job there and put the ball in play.”
The victory sends Denham Springs (22-5) to Saturday’s semifinals, where they will play Pineville, which stunned top seed St. Amant 8-1 Friday.
It was Denham Springs’ second victory of the season over Mount Carmel. The Yellow Jackets won 6-4 in the season opener.
“If you were to have asked me who I didn’t want to play in the first game it would have been Mount Carmel,” Denham Springs coach David Bourque said. “The reason is: I know how well they are coached and how they approach the game. You are talking about a really good softball team. We were in a dogfight with them.”
And this one was, although Mount Carmel (21-9) got off to a fast start. Alaina Guarino hit a solo homer in the first inning to start things off for the Cubs.
They led 6-2 after four innings, but the Yellow Jackets put together a big fifth inning to tie it. Freshman catcher Jaden Accardo delivered the biggest blow, a three-run homer to tie it 6-6.
“The home run was great for me because I had been nervous the entire game,” Accardo said. “Once I hit that home run, the nerves just went away. The biggest thing was that I helped my team out. That is what I’m trying to do. Everybody on this team tries to help their teammates so we can win this thing.”
Denham Springs scored three more runs in the sixth on a 2-run single by Bailey Hughes and a throwing error to lead 9-6.
But Mount Carmel, looking to bring a softball trophy to the school just over a month after winning a basketball title, tried to rally.
The Cubs scored two runs in the sixth without getting a base hit, scoring on a wild pitch and a throwing error.
“We kept fighting, and they kept fighting,” Pierron said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. They are a quality team, and we knew we would have to give 100 percent.”
The Cubs had one last chance in the seventh. Olivia Bubrig reached base on an error. Macy Hornosky reached on a bunt single. Then after a pair of strikeouts, Guarino walked to bring up Dares. But Denham Springs pitcher Chelsea Lewis got out of the jam.
“I was thinking I better hit my spot and throw it slower than every other pitch so she can’t get a bat on it,” Lewis said about the final pressure-packed pitch.
Guarino and Emily Lousteau had two hits each for the Cubs, who lose just four seniors from this team.
“Going into the season, we thought we could get back,” Pierron said. “Once the season progressed, they stepped up and did a phenomenal job. When you get here, you never know what’s going to happen. There is a difference between losing and getting beat. If you lose, obviously, it’s something that you’ve done. But they just beat us.”