Battered and bandaged, Mount Carmel pitcher Amanda Cannella said she was “lucky” to be on the mound in the Cubs’ 3-1 bidistrict playoff victory over Central on Tuesday afternoon at the JPRD softball complex.
Cannella’s grit and the power bats of Sam Dares and Emily Lousteau provided the difference in the game between two young Class 5A softball teams.
Sporting four stitches, including two on the back of the small finger of her right pitching hand and two on her chin, and multiple scrapes and cuts, Cannella put it all aside and pitched a four-hitter.
Cannella was in a tubing accident over the weekend near her Lafitte home. Her tube “turned a corner and hit a (parked boat) and flipped,” she said. “I blacked out. I was told I flipped into a shrimp boat and hit my head.”
She awakened during the ride in the ambulance to West Jefferson Hospital. “That’s when I got scared,” she said.
Cannella was all poise in the pitcher’s circle Tuesday, calmly working out of a serious first-inning threat by the Wildcats. Leadoff hitter Heidi Zumo reached on a triple and Natalie Pourciau scampered to first when her swinging third strike eluded the catcher.
The leadoff triple “was a bit of a downer,” Lousteau said. “But Mandy started firing away again, and I knew I wanted to do anything (defensively) to help her.”
A rundown on a ground ball caught Heidi Zumo for the first out. Cannella then struck out cleanup hitter-pitcher Heather Zumo and enticed a pop-up to third from Amanda Biggs.
In the bottom of the first, Dares launched a knee-high breaking pitch deep over the left-center field fence for a 1-0 Mount Carmel lead. In the second, Lousteau led off with a home run to left. It was Dares’ fifth home run of the year and Lousteau’s third.
Mount Carmel coach Jake Pierron said the momentum “shifted quickly” in the first.
“They hit the triple and Mandy hung in there and battled through it,” he said. “Then we get the two bombs in our first two at-bats. That was nice.”
The Dares and Lousteau combo produced a 3-0 lead in the third. Dares doubled to the gap in right-center. With two outs, Lousteau drove her home with a line drive single to center.
“Fastball, curve, change, we tried them all,” said Central coach Michelle Efferson. “(It) didn’t matter. They touched everything. Those two kids are some of the best hitters we’ve seen this year.”
Central pitcher Zumo kept her team in the game, allowing only three early runs and five hits. She retired the final 10 Mount Carmel batters after Lousteau’s single in the third.
“That’s a quality team to start the playoffs against,” Pierron said. “Their pitcher was great.”
Sophomore Cannella breezed through innings two through five, but Central scored in the sixth and threatened in the seventh.
Zumo, a freshman in Central’s all freshman and sophomore lineup, led off the sixth with a line drive single and moved to third when the ball bounced past the MCA center fielder. Zumo scored on Pourciau’s bouncer to third.
In the last inning, Amanda Biggs lead off again with a single. A pop-up, a fielder’ choice and a routine fly ball to shallow left ended the game.
“Mandy was phenomenal,” Lousteau said. “We’re very excited to be in the playoffs again this year, but we’ve got to win it this year.”
Mount Carmel is seeded fourth and improved to 20-8. MCA lost to Sam Houston in the 2013 state championship game. Central closed the season 13-10.