The high school softball season continues with important district games as area Class 5A teams continue to earn statewide respect.
St. Amant and Live Oak are ranked second and fifth, respectively, in the latest power rankings. East Ascension (sixth), Dutchtown (seventh), Walker (ninth) and Denham Springs (11th) are also in the mix.
Four area Class 5A teams advanced to the state tournament in 2012, and five did so in 2011. Anything is still possible as teams jockey for position in the April 26-27 state tournament at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
St. Amant (17-2, 4-0 in District 5-5A) travels to East Ascension (15-4, 3-1) at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Walker (15-7, 3-3 in District 4-5A) travels to Live Oak (16-5, 6-0) at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Dutchtown in District 5-5A and Denham Springs in District 4-5A are the other teams with just one league loss.
ST. AMANT AT EAST ASCENSION: In the last game of the first round of district action, St. Amant will send senior pitcher Kasey Nielson (12-1) to the circle, while freshman Jesse Watts will go for EAHS. Nielson has signed with Southeastern Louisiana University.
“Kasey does a good job of keeping hitters off balance,” St. Amant coach and Kasey Nielson’s father, Scott Nielson, said. “Her ball moves, she spins it well and she can change speed. We’ve been playing well as a team.
“We have a ton of respect for East Ascension and Dutchtown. Going into the year, we expected one of these three Ascension Parish schools to be district champions.”
Eleven different players have homered for St. Amant. The Gators are led by seniors Brooke Roberts (catcher), Kirsten Despino (center fielder) and Sydnie Bertrand. Madison Edmonston, Ali DeLany and Roberts all have at least 20 RBIs. Kara Gremillion (.519), Roberts (.404) and DeLany (.392) have excelled at the plate.
“We’re having a good year offensively,” Nielson said. “We’re very deep, and everybody contributes.”
Leadoff hitter Bailey Landry, an LSU signee, is one of five seniors for EAHS. Landry hits better than .400, is perfect in stolen base attempts and uses her speed defensively in center field.
“Bailey is fast and powerful,” EAHS coach Amy Pitre said. “She’s one of the best base runners I’ve ever coached. She has turned a lot of singles into doubles.”
Other EAHS seniors are catcher Brooke Delaune, second baseman Kyleigh Leblanc, first baseman/pitcher Kendall Burgess and Celeste Fenley.
“The seniors have been a big part of our last three teams that made the state tournament,” Pitre said. “We’ll have to play mistake-free ball against St. Amant. Jesse Watts is getting better every game on the mound. We’ll have to play great defense behind her.”
WALKER AT LIVE OAK: Live Oak won the first meeting 11-6 as Walker had five errors. This is the second game of the second round.
Junior Kassey Ard (12-6) will be in the circle for Walker, while freshman Savannah Hall (9-1) starts for LOHS. Walker has won eight of its last nine games.
“Our district is one of the hardest in the state,” Live Oak coach Michelle Morris said. “We can’t take anyone lightly. The first game with Walker was much closer than the score indicates. We’ll need to continue to put the bat on the ball.”
Live Oak is led by seniors Brooke Morris (shortstop), Sarah Sepeea (second base) and Meagan Louviere (center field). Three or four freshmen start for the Eagles. That group includes Hall, catcher Katelyn McLin and third baseman Lauren Brown (leadoff hitter).
Leadoff hitter Demi Henderson often starts the attack for Walker. Senior catcher Taylor Fuchs (.417), Taylor Lockwood (.417), junior left fielder Lyndsey Palmer and senior center fielder Hailey Sullivan are other top hitters.
“Our goal is to have a winning record in district after this week,” Walker coach Daniel Desselle said. “It would be huge to go over there and upset Live Oak and then we’ll host Denham Springs Thursday in another tough game.”