ARNAUDVILLE — Thad Dickey challenged himself.
Despite his team having won 25 games, the Beau Chene softball coach had just witnessed his team lose at home in the opening round of the playoffs to No. 20 seed Scholastic 13-7. In the days that followed the stunning upset, the longtime Lady Gators coach knew he needed to change his approach if he wanted to guide his team to the Fast Pitch 56 for the fourth time in his decade-plus tenure.
“I took it as a teaching moment for my team and myself,” Dickey said. “I looked how I scheduled last year and changed it for this year. I needed to put wins and losses aside and get us better prepared for the playoffs.”
That change in philosophy this season resulted in Beau Chene playing in tournaments against teams such as Denham Springs, John Curtis, Parkview Baptist, Zachary and Live Oak. Beau Chene took its lumps early as the team started the season losing seven of its first 12 games.
That stiffer competition though has paid off as Beau Chene (19-9) went undefeated in District 4-4A play and ended the regular season by winning 10 straight games. No. 14 Beau Chene hosts No. 19 Ellender at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“I think our mindset is 110 percent better because of the teams we played,” junior Adelyn Deville said. “It challenged us a lot.”
That more difficult schedule meant that his returning ace Bryley Rodriguez would also be taking her lumps. After going 21-7 as a freshman in 2014, Rodriguez ended this season with a 14-9 mark, but still had an impressive 1.842 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 144 innings.
“I wanted to challenge her against the better teams and get her mentally tough for the postseason,” Dickey said. “She put her stats aside to help the team. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
“It helped the confidence in myself,” Rodriguez said. “If I could throw against those types of hitters, then I could pitch to anyone.”
Dickey also made a key change to the Lady Gators lineup toward the end of the first half of district play. He moved junior Adalyn Deville from the eight hole to the leadoff spot, and that move has paid off. Deville has 40 hits, 36 runs and a .482 batting average, while the heart of the lineup has flourished with Victoria Burns, Lindsey Charles and Lauren Manuel all batting .365 or better.
“She was getting on base down at the bottom of the lineup,” Dickey said. “I thought that I could have her at the top of the lineup and that would give my power hitters more RBI chances.”
“It made me a better and more confident hitter,” Deville said. “Coach Dickey trusted me to step up and he can now put that weight on my shoulders.”
Beau Chene lost only one starter from last year’s team and returns 17 players who experienced that first-round defeat that spurred change. Four-year starter Katelyn Hukins, who leads the team with a .510 batting average, is one of those players. The Lady Gators’ designated player said that the defeat has had a positive impact on her and her teammates.
“When we lost, it was devastating,” Hukins said. “But what it did is was that brought us together. It made us work harder, grow up and mature.”
“My team is very excited,” Dickey said. “They know they have some unfinished business.”