A year ago Mount Carmel went into the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s Fast Pitch 56 State Tournament and finished as the Class 5A runner-up with a senior-dominated squad. Not so this year.

The Cubs will take the Frasch Park field in Sulphur against Denham Springs with a lineup dominated by younger players, including four freshmen and two sophomore starters.

Mount Carmel’s youth did not slow the Cubs’ march to a 21-8 record against a difficult schedule. At times, the Cubs’ four seniors seem to have even found some humor in the youthful transition.

Senior catcher Olivia Bubrig admitted that the four seniors “have felt the importance of being role models.

“Sometimes,” she said while smiling, “I’ve told them I’m the mama. With this team, age doesn’t matter who plays. Whoever can step up and get the job done to help the team win that day, will step up.”

The No. 4 seeded Cubs will be facing fifth-seeded Denham Springs, which defeated Mount Carmel 6-4 in the season opener.

Senior right fielder Emily Lousteau said she doesn’t think there will be thoughts about that score before Friday’s game.

“We are an entirely different team,” Lousteau said. “We had a lot of new players early (in the season), and we were still trying to figure out who we were as a team. We are a completely different team now.”

The winner of Friday’s 6 p.m. Mount Carmel-Denham Springs game will play at 1 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Friday’s game between top-seeded St. Amant and Pineville.

“I’ve told the girls the numbers in front of the team mean nothing now,” said coach Jake Pierron said. “We’ve got to play our game. If we play to our abilities, we’ll be fine.”

Senior Lexi Ruello said, “We are very ready for this. We’ve got a lot of new players, but everyone has worked so hard.”

The maturing of a young team has been special for the seniors to observe.

“At the beginning of the season we had no idea how (the team) would be,” said senior leadoff hitter Alexa Songy. “Now we are a team, and we have been playing as a team. There is no one playing as an individual.

“It has been nice to see the younger ones grow within the group.”

The Sulphur softball complex does present one challenge, artificial turf.

“We only have a few girls who’ve played on turf, so I want to get the younger girls adjusted when we practice,” Pierron said.

A year ago an MCA lineup with eight seniors lost 8-0 in the final to Sam Houston, a team steamrolling to its third straight title. Mount Carmel upset Hahnville (29-4) in the quarterfinals, then rallied to defeat Live Oak in the semifinals.

Lousteau said whatever disappointment that team felt, it wasn’t long lasting.

“I was glad to just be a part of that team even though we lost (in the final),” Lousteau said. “We left everything we had on the field. We played hard. We played for the pure love of the game.”