SULPHUR — Leslie Efferson-Yellott took a few seconds to ponder what had just happened as second-seeded Zachary High rallied from a three-run deficit to beat seventh-seeded St. Amant High.
“When you think about it, softball is a game of failure,” Efferson-Yellott said. “If you succeed three times out of 10, that’s considered to be a good thing.
“What are the odds that it would happen that way? A kid comes up with a chance to put her team ahead and doesn’t. She gets the same chance 30 minutes later and does it. It’s incredible, I’m so happy for Lakyn Wales.”
Wales’ RBI single up the middle brought Hannah Dixon in to score the game-winning run, giving Zachary a 5-4 victory over St. Amant.
It was one of three Class 5A quarterfinal games involving Baton Rouge area teams on the first day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Fast Pitch 56 State Softball tournament.
And it had all the ingredients of a classic.
A first-day record crowd of 10,136 attended Friday’s session of quarterfinal games at Frasch Park. With the win, Zachary (25-5) advances to play third-seeded Ouachita in one 5A semifinal set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, District 4-5A rival Live Oak (25-6), the fifth seed, plays No. 1 Alexandria Senior High (29-4) also at 1 p.m. Finals are scheduled for 7 p.m.
“A year ago we won in a walk-off (game-ending hit) in this same game,” St. Amant coach Scott Nielson said. “As gut-wrenching as it is, a game like this seldom comes down to just one play.
“We had opportunity after opportunity that we didn’t capitalize on. There were plays we didn’t make. It was the same for Zachary. There were plays they didn’t make. They made the last one. Both teams gave it all they had.”
The story was similar for Live Oak. The Eagles trailed early but got a dramatic three-run home run from Giselle Ash in a 3-2 win over 13th-seeded Pineville.
At that point, it looked like it could be a District 4-5A sweep. But top-seeded Alexandria took the lead in the first inning and never wavered en route to a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Central High.
All week long, Efferson-Yellott stressed the importance of getting on top of pitches from St. Amant pitcher Kourtney Gremillion. The Broncos had their struggles, and at times got under the ball, lofting pops. Or they hit balls at shortstop SAHS Taylor Tidwell, who scooped them up like a vacuum cleaner.
Brooke Romano’s two-run double staked the Gators to a 2-0 lead in the third. Zachary made it 2-1 when Carsyn Martel scored on Carlie Schenk’s RBI single in fifth. It looked like Tidwell put the game away with a two-RBI single in the top of the sixth.
Zachary countered in a big way with six hits in the bottom of the sixth. Macie Pampel, Abby Lewis and Dixon had the RBI hits. But with two on and two outs, Wales popped the ball up to Gremillion for the third out.
With two out in the bottom of the eighth, Gremillion hit two batters before Wales came to the plate.
“She’s a good pitcher, and we had to make the adjustment and not hit to the shortstop,” Wales said. “I struggled before, and all I could think about was doing it for my team.
“All that went through my mind was taking the first strike I saw and driving it up the middle. That’s usually the prettiest pitch you’ll see, and it was.”
LIVE OAK 3, PINEVILLE 2: Ash was 2-for-3, including a towering shot to left-center field that left one of the largest Frasch Park fields quickly in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“She (Ash) didn’t even realize it went out until she rounded second,” LOHS coach Michelle Morris said. “That’s when she saw the team coming out to greet her. That ball got out in a hurry. Even before that, Savannah (Hall) had the game in hand. We had a good scouting report, and she executed it.”
That was all the support Hall needed. Hall struck out eight. Ashton Priester and Lauren Brown both went 1-for-3 with one run scored.
Though Pineville scored in the first and led 1-0 until the fourth, Hall made her presence felt by striking out five in a row during one stretch.
ALEXANDRIA 3, CENTRAL 1: Heather Zumo came on in relief and retired 12 of the first batters she faced for Central (24-8). Zumo also was 1-for-2 with a double.
Bayleigh Anders finished 2-for-3 for the Wildcats. River Hubbard had the RBI.