SULPHUR — Last season as an eighth-grader, Madison Watson came oh-so-close to hitting a homer run in Sulphur.
That one hit the top of the fence. This year, she cleared it.
The freshman’s two-run homer in the second inning helped boost Riverside to a 5-1victory over DeQuincy in the Class 2A quarterfinals at the North Frasch Softball Complex.
The Lady Rebels (18-11) advance to Saturday’s 11 a.m. semifinal to face Oak Grove, which beat Many 7- 4.
Riverside coach Kristy Hebert wasn’t surprised about Watson’s homer.
“That was key,” Hebert said. “We were at batting practice and she was just smiling away and she said ‘I’m feeling it today.’ She has been swinging a good bat and has been close so many times and just had that feeling today.”
It was the first homer of the season for the third baseman.
“(DeQuincy pitcher Jaylee Googe) hit me the first time, so I knew she was going to throw me a strike,” Watson said. “So I backed off the plate and just drove the ball.”
Watson’s home run gave Riverside a 3-0 lead. The first run came in the first inning when Peyton Sutton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
It was just the type of start Hebert was hoping for as her team that lost in the title game last season.
“I thought we had to come out these first couple innings being on top,” Hebert said. “It would help us relax and give us confidence throughout the rest of the game, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Riverside scored two more in the fourth inning, thanks to doubles by Toni Perrin, Toni Hebert (the coach’s daughter) and Erin Delaneuville.
Hebert, a sophomore, went the distance to improve to 11-5. The Lady Tigers scored their lone run in the seventh inning when they got three of their five hits.
“I just told myself to stay calm,” Hebert said. “I tried to throw around the big hitters as much as possible. They got some hits there late, but we kept our composure.”
Hebert had two strikeouts. That was plenty enough for her coach/mom.
“I thought she kept her composure,” said Hebert. “We stress to her that we don’t need her to strike people out. We just need her to pitch her pitches and let the defense play because we have excellent defense behind her.”
Hebert was 2-for-3 with a double and a triple. Delanueville also had two hits for a Riverside team that started one senior, two juniors, four sophomores, two freshmen and an eighth-grader.
“I was very proud of them,” Hebert said. “I don’t think we showed any kind of nerves the first couple of at bats. I credit that to the schedule they have played all season. I promised them that there was nothing they would see here they haven’t seen all season.”