Top softball seniors get chance to shine in all-star games _lowres

Advocate file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Brusly's Akiya Thymes is one of several Baton Rouge area players participating in the LHSCA All-Star softball games Friday and Saturday in Pineville.

For most of the state’s high school softball players, the 2015 season closed. But for a select few seniors, there’s still one more game to play — this time, against the best Louisiana has to offer.

The Louisiana High School Coaches Association Softball All-Star games this weekend offer one final opportunity for the top seniors in the state to come together in an East vs. West game.

The two squads will play a pair of games at Louisiana College in Pineville, with Game 1 at 7 p.m. Friday and Game 2 at 1 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s a great time for all the kids who have graduated,” East coach Tim Whitman of Ouachita Parish said. “It’s still competitive. We try to win for the East side, but it’s more of a time to get to see a bunch of different players from around the state and get to coach some of the best players from around the state.”

Whitman called this year’s talent pool one of the best he’s seen as a coach, a fact he said is best shown by the amount of college talent Louisiana is producing.

Players like St. Amant shortstop, and Advocate Female Athlete of the Year, Kara Gremillion, St. Joseph’s Academy shortstop Elyse Thornhill and Catholic-Pointe Coupee shortstop Blaire Bass highlight the East’s roster as players to continue their careers at Louisiana-Lafayette, LSU and Auburn. Brusly center fielder Akiya Thymes, who will compete for the West in the all-star game, has signed with LSU for next season.

Along with those who will move on to the next level, several Baton Rouge area players will represent the East team, including Denham Springs center fielder Harli Crow, Parkview Baptist center fielder Morgan Acosta and Live Oak pitcher Amanda Holliday and first baseman Virginia Cacioppo.

Live Oak is one of only four schools in the state to send multiple players, while Whitman will be joined by Ouachita Parish’s Victoria Pederson.

“I was really excited (about the selection) because nothing is for sure, so it was really kind of a shock to me,” Thornhill said. “A few of my friends who I thought were going to make it didn’t. I was really happy whenever I saw I did make it.”

Whitman, who is head coach in the all-star games for the second time after leading Ouachita Parish to a 5A state championship last season, said the games present a difficult, yet refreshing, challenge of meshing together so much talent in such a short period of time.

Both sides will only meet on the field once before the first pitch with a practice the day before. That doesn’t give Whitman much time to teach strategy or get to know each player’s specific skill sets, but the Lions coach isn’t too worried.

“It’s really about trying to figure out how they fit into the puzzle there,” Whitman said. “You try to limit the Xs and Os to pretty basic stuff and just let them have fun.

“You want to win, but it’s more of just getting them in the right positions and let them play.”