SCOTT — The Acadiana High School softball program took inspiration in the words of Julie Andrews.
The beloved film star of “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” had been quoted saying “perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.” After missing out on the state playoffs for the 19th straight year last season, coach Kevin Smith’s team adopted Andrew’s mantra as its own.
“That was our motto this year,” Smith said. “Nineteen years of not being in the playoffs and the 20th was the year that we had to make something happen.”
The Lady Rams did make something happen by earning a spot in the Class 5A playoffs this season. No. 27 Acadiana plays at No. 6 East Ascension at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“I am excited for the kids,” Smith said. “These girls have come out here day in and day out and have worked their tails off. Everything they have done is to earn this spot. It is well deserved.”
Progress has been slow for a program with little history to build on, with the exception of a state semifinal appearance in 1991. Enthusiasm for the sport was mild at best when Smith took over a number of years ago. He barely had a dozen girls come out for the team, and most of those girls had never even played fast-pitch softball before.
“When I first came in, most of the girls that tried out were coming from slow pitch,” Smith said. “Through the years, we have had more and more girls come into the program from fast pitch and have a better knowledge of the game. Now they take it far more seriously. The want to just have fun, they want to be successful at it, and reach that next level.”
After breaking through with the program’s first winning season a few years ago, the Lady Rams appeared poised for a playoff berth in 2014. The team went 18-9 overall but finished No. 33 in the final power rankings, one spot out of the postseason.
Despite losing four starters from that squad, Acadiana (13-12) got even better this season.
Left-handed sophomore Dorrie Cormier and right-handed freshman Sydni Larriviere have handled duties on the mound for the Lady Rams. Cormier (6-6) leads the team with 96 strikeouts and a 1.55 ERA. Larriviere is 8-7 with 74 strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA.
At the plate, the Lady Rams have eight players batting at least .300, with three hitting .380 or higher, including Cormier (.382), Rainey Babineaux (.395) and Kennedi Smith (.432).
“The thing with our girls is that any time they can put the bat on the ball, anything can happen,” Smith said. “If we can hits that we need, they will find a way.”
That efficiency has helped Acadiana overcome several early deficits this season.
The team trailed Notre Dame 7-6 in the season opener before scoring two runs in the final inning, rallied from being 5-4 down to defeat Comeaux 6-5 in the District 3-5A finale, and then there was the comeback against Teurlings Catholic. Acadiana spotted the perennial power an 8-2 lead in the first inning but came back and tied the game 10-10 before losing 11-10 in the seventh inning.
“This team would do anything to win,” Jasmine Albarado said. “We leave our hearts on that field.”
That resiliency has impressed Smith, a 20-year coaching veteran of six different sports including a stint as the wrestling coach at Comeaux High.
“The identity of this team is they don’t give up,” Smith said. “The kids are going to fight and they are going to keep after it.”
For this group of Lady Rams, they are just not content with finally ending the program’s long-standing playoff drought. This group wants to taste victory in the playoffs and will not be overwhelmed by facing a team that reached the Fast Pitch 56 in Sulphur four of the past five years.
“I think we are very confident,” sophomore shortstop Kennedi Smith said. “Not only are we a team but we are a family of 21 sisters. We are not intimidated at all.
“We want it more than anything.”