Livingston Parish has one the state’s proudest girls basketball traditions.
The chance to enhance a different kind of tradition intrigues Holden softball coach Dennis Knight. And he is not alone.
“We’re all on the same side of the parish, and we all play each other,” Knight said. “We’ve all grown and learned from playing each other. Now, we’ll get to watch each other.”
So here’s the pitch: Holden (29-3), Maurepas (22-5) and Doyle (23-9) all want to establish themselves at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA/Fast Pitch 56 State tournament that begins Friday at Frasch Park in Sulphur. The two-day tourney starts with quarterfinals Friday and features semifinals and finals Saturday.
No one questions Baton Rouge’s strength at the top of the high school softball order. Local teams claimed half of the quarterfinal spots in Class 5A. One of those teams, Live Oak, also is from Livingston Parish.
The power base at the bottom of the LHSAA softball order that the three Livingston schools bring may surprise some.
Class B Holden (29-3) and Maurepas (22-5) of Class C are No. 2 seeds in the LHSAA’s two smallest classes. And then there’s Doyle (23-9), a 12th seed in 2A, which upset fifth-seeded Riverside Academy to advance.
“We’ve got seven starters back from last year,” Doyle coach Amanda Decell said. “We beat some good teams and played some others close during the year. When we were able to beat St. Thomas Aquinas in the second round of district, I think we finally realized what was possible.”
Doyle pitcher Olivia Welda doesn’t fit the hard-throwing stereotype of a softball pitcher. But she has 117 strikeouts and just 10 walks. Designated player Elise Jones leads the Tigers with a .395 batting average.
Doyle is in the tourney for the first time since finishing as the Class 2A runner-up in 2008. Holden (2011) and Maurepas (2012) each have a state runner-up finish in this decade. The fact Maurepas dropped down to Class C this season after being a Class B district rival to Holden only adds to it. So does the fact Holden won a Class B state title in girls basketball last month.
“I do feel good about our chances,” Maurepas coach Amanda Henley said. “This year reminds me a lot of the last time we made it to the finals. This group is very close, and I think one of the reasons for that is we’ve stressed other things, like giving back.”
The Wolves hosted a breast cancer awareness “Pink Game” with West Feliciana for the third straight year. Part of the proceeds went to the family of a Fontainebleau player whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Two freshmen help lead the way for Henley’s team. Pitcher McKenna Lessard is 16-5 and pitcher/first baseman Kaylynn Vicknair is batting .420 for Maurepas.
Holden starts four eighth-graders who are major contributors. Catcher Ashley Fogg and third baseman Emma Hutchinson are batting over .500. Losing 5-3 to another 5A tourney team, St. Amant, was a huge confidence booster.
Knight is an interesting story, too. He graduated from Oak Forest Academy and coached middle school football and basketball in the Loranger area for a decade. Knight likes the small school atmosphere, and his daughter, Madison, is another eighth-grade starter.
Decell and Knight call each other at least once a week to compare notes and game stories. When Holden and Maurepas played in the same tournament earlier, the teams made it point to got watch each other’s games when possible.
Maurepas plays its quarterfinal with Northside Christian at noon, and there’s a good chance the other two teams will watch at least a few innings. Doyle meets Notre Dame at 2 p.m. and then Holden takes on Converse at 4 p.m.
“I guess we kind of feel like we’re in this together,” Knight said. “So we’ll be watching each other.”