Parity and possibilities.
That catchy phrase offers words to live by for eight Baton Rouge area teams headed for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Softball tournament that begins Friday with quarterfinal games at Sulphur’s Frasch Park.
“There’s so much parity,” St. Amant coach Scott Nielson said. “The first two teams we played in the playoffs had a combined district record of 25-1.
“Generally, I say the same things every year. It comes down to timely hitting and defense. At this point, if you make mistakes there can be a finality to them. This team knows that from experience, and you hope that pays off.”
St. Amant (30-2) is one of two area Baton Rouge teams to claim a No. 1 seed. The Gators face No. 9 Pineville (23-8) at 6 p.m. in one of three 5A games that feature local schools.
Catholic-Pointe Coupee (24-3) also garnered a top seed in 1A. The New Roads-based Hornets won the 1A crown last season and face No. 8 Ouachita Christian (19-9) at noon to help jump start the two-day tournament.
“The last two years we’ve had five or six teams from our district that have made the tournament, and we had to beat them in the first two rounds to get to the finals,” CHSPC coach Lauren Doucet said. “This year it really is a whole new ballgame with teams we haven’t faced before.
“There’s Central Catholic, a team we’ve haven’t played in three years, and some north Louisiana teams we don’t know as much about. I think this kind of challenge is going to be good. We’ve had the experience of being here before, and our girls know this won’t be easy.”
Baton Rouge’s areas of concentration are Class 5A with four teams and 1A with three teams. The other local defending champion, 3A Brusly (23-8) is the lone team in 3A. The Panthers face No. 11 Jena (20-6) for the third time in four years at the tourney. Game time is 2 p.m.
All four 3A semifinalists return to go along with two significant teams who moved up from Class 2A, top-seeded John Curtis and No. 8 Evangel.
“I think 3A is strong as balanced as any of the classes,” Brusly coach Beau Bouvier said. “We’ve got a great senior group that has done some great things. They know what to expect.
“Jena is better than most 11th seeds, and we know that because we’ve played them. We go into this knowing what we need to do. We’ve got to be solid defensively and score some runs.”
Brusly is without senior pitcher Carli Jo LeBlanc, who is sidelined with an injury. Sophomore Camryn Comeaux (7-2) has taken over the pitching duties for a BHS team also was the 3A runner-up in 2011.
Skeptics will no doubt be watching 5A. Baton Rouge districts have put as many as five teams in the quarterfinals in recent years and did not win a championship. St. Amant was the last Baton Rouge area team to win 5A in 2006, ending a string of five straight Gator titles.
Third-seeded Live Oak (23-3) was a semifinalist last year and faces a Cinderella team, No. 27 Alexandria Senior High (14-12) at 4 p.m. ASH ousted another traditional power, No. 6 Hahnville, in the first round.
The other 4 p.m. quarterfinal has No. 10 East Ascension facing second-seeded Ouachita (23-4).
“We’re a young team this year, but I keep saying why not us?” EAHS coach Amy Pitre said.
“When you get to the state tournament, everybody is good and you just have to go play.”
Fifth-seeded Denham Springs (21-5) plays No. 4 Mount Carmel (21-8) at 6 p.m. DSHS coach David Bourque has again reminded his team that seeding is just a number.
All the 5A teams have solid offensive and power numbers. St. Amant shortstop Kara Gremillion is hitting .579. East Ascension pitcher Jessie Watts has 60 RBIs and Denham Springs catcher Jaden Acardo has 11 home runs. Live Oak’s Payton Gremillion is batting .495.
Two teams that were quarterfinals a year ago, No. 3 Ascension Catholic (23-6) and No. 10 St. John (21-12), complete the 1A group. Former ACHS pitcher Brandi Hahn is in her first year as the ACHS coach. SJHS’ Cindy Prouty also is a first-year head coach at her school.
Both teams play at 2 p.m. ACHS meets No. 11 Hanson (19-7), while SJHS meets No. Central Catholic (26-3).
Pitcher Ryann Bizette missed some games because of injury but is back now to help lead CHSPC. Shortstop Shelbi Strickland leads St. John offensively.
“I’m proud of our girls and how far we’ve come this season,” Hahn said. “And I’ll be proud of whatever we do. This is a chance to shown how far we’ve come.”