BOSSIER CITY — Business, for St. Amant High softball, is reaching Sulphur and the state tournament.
Thanks to Kasey Nielson and a relentless offense, the Gators are back in business.
Nielson tossed a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts, and St. Amant cracked a pair of home runs into a tough wind Friday, as the Gators rolled to an 8-0 victory against host Airline in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs Friday afternoon.
After a slow start, the Gators scored in each inning from the third through the sixth, clinching the game with a four-run sixth inning that featured a two-run home run from Nielson.
“The communication we had with our pitchers was keep chopping wood, have a plan, work the plan and let’s try to win every inning,” St. Amant coach Scott Nielson said. “When we were up 4-0 late in the game, we told the girls, ‘Let’s score here. There’s no such thing as a five-run home run.’ ”
The Gators (26-2) struggled to deliver key hits in the first two innings, as Airline freshman left-hander Jamie Roberts stranded a runner on second in the first and one on third in the second.
Kirsten Despino’s leadoff home run in the third inning snapped the scoreless tie.
“Our timing was off (early),” said SAHS catcher Brooke Roberts, who drilled a two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning. “Once we got our timing down, we were good to go.”
Airline’s Jamie Roberts was pitching with wrist tendinitis, and St. Amant’s big inning came when most of the Gators were seeing Roberts for a fourth at-bat.
“She’s got bad tenditnitis,” Airline coach Danny Roberts said. “She can’t throw her movement pitches. We’ve got to change up, and then spot our fastball.”
Kasey Nielson had no such trouble.
She allowed one hit — a one-out, third-inning single by Cheyanne Hutchins that Nielson got a glove on — and struck out 11, never allowing a Viking past second base.
Airline (17-12) had two at-bats with runners in scoring position, both in the first inning. Nielson took care of that threat by striking out Lindsay Fronzaglio and Miranda Young.
“Anybody can hit straight fast speed, and anybody can hit straight slow speed. If you change speeds, you can throw people off,” Kasey Nielson said.
“Movement, not everybody can hit movement. If you can make the ball move, it throws them off balance.”
St. Amant’s arrival in Bossier City was delayed by an car crash that snarled traffic in Shreveport.
Much like their offense, the Gators arrived, even if it was a little later than they wanted.
“We stayed focused on the bus,” Brooke Roberts said. “We relaxed and stayed calm. We said, ‘Hey, it’s just another day. We’re not coming around to joke or play. It’s a business, so let’s take care of our business and go home.’ ”