SULPHUR — East Ascension and Zachary put a lot of softball into 31/2 hours on Friday night at Frasch Park.
Claire Weinberger’s RBI single scored Callie Shelmire in the bottom of the 10th inning and gave East Ascension a 5-4 victory, along with some vindication a year after a gut-wrenching semifinal loss.
The high-emotion, high-octane Class 5A quarterfinal provided a key highlight on the first day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Fast Pitch 56 State Softball tournament.
The game-winner came on a 2-2 pitch an inning after Zachary second baseman Macie Pampell snagged a Weinberger line drive that looked like it might end the game.
“I knew my job was to hit it in the gap. Props to her, she got it,” Weinberger said while recounting her final two at-bats. “I pictured (the final at-bat) in my mind like it was like a 2-0 pitch, even though it wasn’t. I thought that it would be my pitch and I’d hit it. That’s what I did.
“This was a game you had to be mentally tough in. You could be mad and happy, depending on the inning. It was the best and the worst. I’m just glad we came out with the win.”
With the victory, the sixth-seeded Spartans (23-7) advance to play Ascension Parish rival Dutchtown (25-8) in a 5A semifinal set for 1 p.m. Saturday on Field 15. It’s the field EAHS lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Ouachita Parish in 2014.
However, there were no thought of 2014. There were smiles all around for the Spartans as they contemplated the parish semifinal.
“It’s (all) Ascension Parish … go rob a bank tomorrow,” EAHS coach Amy Pitre said. “This is huge for (Weinberger). There’s no one we would rather have in the batter’s box in those situations.”
Even though the teams combined for 18 hits, it was very much a pitcher’s duel between Zachary’s Baylie Doiron and EAHS’ Jessie Watts. Doiron struck out 10, but also had nine walks. Doiron got two key strikeouts in the eighth. Watts got stronger as the game went on and allowed just two base runners during the final three innings.
Hannah Dixon’s RBI single in the top of the seventh tied it 4-4, giving Zachary a chance in extra innings. East Ascension went six innings without scoring, but put pressure on the 14th-seeded Broncos (20-12), loading the bases in both the ninth and 10th innings. The momentum shifts were like a scaled-down version of the season for ZHS.
“We got out of some jams in high-pressure situations … that’s for sure,” Zachary coach Leslie Efferson-Yellott said. “Eight weeks ago nobody would have picked us to be here. We’ve had some real highs and lows this season.
“We’ve been playing with their hearts and have been playing fundamental softball for the most part. They (East Ascension) got what they needed. Next year we’ll start at this level.”