GONZALES — Perfection. It’s something every softball pitcher strives for.
Even though she wound up being an infield single away from a perfect game, Jessie Watts was all smiles. And why not?
The sophomore struck out 10 and did not walk a batter while helping lead East Ascension to a 3-0 victory over Destrehan in Class 5A bidistrict round playoff game Tuesday.
“I was just hitting my spots,” Watts said. “I had butterflies before the game. Getting the lead was big. That gave us the momentum, and we were really ready.”
With the victory, the 10th-seeded Spartans (23-8) advance to play No. 7 C.E. Byrd in Shreveport in the regional round. Byrd defeated Ponchatoula 4-1 in its first-round game.
Carmisha Payton and Claire Weinberger each had an RBI triple to pace the East Ascension offense. The Spartans managed five hits off of Carla Beck, who made her first varsity start for Destrehan (20-8). The Wildcats lost their pitcher and top hitter, Krista Robles, to a knee injury in last week’s District 7-5A finale against Hahnville.
EAHS scored a single run in the third inning and added two more in the fourth inning, which was more than enough support for Watts, who struck five of the final six batters she faced, including the last four in a row.
“All we cared about was the win,” East Ascension coach Amy Pitre said. “We didn’t make any mistakes defensively, and Jessie pitched so well. I actually think she was throwing harder at the end of the game.
“I didn’t think we had the best at-bats. I think there were some nerves because this is a young team. Obviously, there are some things to work on, but a win is a win.”
Destrehan’s Amanda McNaughton got her team’s lone hit when she beat out an infield bouncer hit to EAHS’ Payton at third base to lead off the top of the fourth inning. Watts retired the next three hitters and went on to retire 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.
By that time, the Spartans already had a 1-0 lead. After getting runners to second and third in the first inning and getting the leadoff runner on the second, EAHS broke through in the third.
Verlencia Jackson drew a one-out walk and scored one out later on Payton’s triple to the fence. Beck got a groundout to end the inning.
The Spartans scored twice with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Mackenzie Andrews walked. Courtesy runner Abbey Anderson stole second and scored on Marina Speligene’s single to left. Speligene then scored on Weinberger’s triple to right to make it 3-0.
“About six weeks ago they (EAHS) beat us 12-2 at our place,” Destrehan coach Kenny Montz said. “We played about as well as we could against them. I thought our pitcher (Beck) kept us in the game.
“I asked them to compete for seven innings, and I thought we did. We knew in the playoffs we’d have to swing the bats in order to win and unfortunately, today, we didn’t. That girl over there (Watts) had a lot to do with it.”