Brusly junior third baseman Lanesha Taylor still recalls the unmistakable feeling of walking off the artificial turf infield last year after a 4-0, 10-inning state semifinal loss to Buckeye at Frasch Park.
“It was pretty devastating,” Taylor said. “But I knew after that, this year we would be even better. We knew how it felt to lose that game, and we didn’t want to be in that place again.”
Top-seeded Brusly (30-2) returns to the Louisiaan High School Athletic Association State Softball Tournament in Sulphur for the fourth time in five years, taking a 28-game win streak into Friday’s Class 3A state quarterfinal against eighth-seeded Crowley (26-6) at 4 p.m.
The winner advances to meet the No. 4 North Vermilion- No. 5 Jena winner at 1 p.m. Saturday. The state title game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“Since January we’ve taken it day by day and tried to improve every day,” Brusly coach Beau Bouvier said. “When we started playing games, we got on a roll, and we’re hoping to keep it going for three more games.”
After splitting its first four games, Brusly began its 28-game win streak with an 8-7 win over Berwick on Feb. 26.
The Panthers managed to navigate their way through a challenging schedule, one filled with eight teams still in contention for state championships in their respective classifications.
“I knew we would be good, but I didn’t know we would be this good,” junior center fielder Carlie Comeaux said. “They told us we were going to play a tough schedule again, which forces you to play your best against good teams. I would never have thought we would have won 28 straight and be 30-2.”
While Brusly has knocked at the door of the program’s first state crown since 1997, including a 4-3 loss to Catholic-New Iberia in the 2011 title game, Crowley erased an 11-year drought without a postseason victory and state-tournament appearance. The Ladies have won their last 10 games and will start pitcher Olivia Boullion (25-6).
“We think experience will play a factor,” Bouvier said. “Throughout the tournament most of the teams were there last year, but experience will only go so far. No matter who we face we have to be ready to play from the beginning of the game.”
Junior Carli Jo LeBlanc has played a significant part in Brusly’s success, both in the circle and at the plate.
LeBlanc is 23-1 with a sparkling 0.95 earned run average, 214 strikeouts and 12 shutouts. She’s also hitting .359 with three homers and 33 RBIs.
Comeaux is among the catalysts for an offense that’s batting .384 and averages 9.8 runs per outing.
Comeaux (.523, 12 doubles, two home runs, 39 RBIs) is one of three players batting .400 or better followed by sophomore left fielder Akiya Thymes (.485, 33 RBIs, 29 of 29 in stolen bases) and Taylor (.475, 3 HRs, 15 doubles, 52 RBIs).
Sophomore shortstop Maddie Laprarie (.395, six doubles, 20 RBIs) and freshman catcher Kaitlin David (.382, eight doubles, 19 RBIs) have played roles in helping the Panthers score 10 or more runs 15 times.
“We’ve really had to work to get where wanted to be,” Taylor said. “We know that to get to the game we want to be in we have to work. We have to push and just continue to do what we know how. We’ve got to play our own game.”