Bryce Walker, 16, started playing tennis when he was just 8 years old, inspired by his grandfather, John Hammons, who played on local league teams and still plays tennis at 74 years old. Walker’s older brother, Landon, plays tennis for Monmouth College in Illinois as a sophomore. So I guess we could call this a family tradition, couldn’t we?
Walker used his talents as an Ascension Christian player and all that family tradition to win the 1A Division Tennis Singles State Championship at the University of Louisiana Monroe last weekend by besting senior Brandon Abdella, of Ascension Episcopal in Lafayette, in successive sets, 7-6, 7-5.
Although the wins were successive, the games didn’t go quite as expected. The first game was played on Thursday night. Friday’s game was scheduled for 11 a.m. but a six-hour rain delay postponed the game until 5 p.m. and the family didn’t make it back to Prairieville until midnight.
A logical question might be, “What are your plans for the future after your senior year?” But that’s a little far away as Walker accomplished this feat as a freshman.
“I plan to follow in my Paw Paw’s as well as my brother’s footsteps as far as tennis is concerned. But I have three more years in high school yet,” he said.
Ascension Christian player Mattie Marquette also made it to the state playoffs, but lost out in the first round.
Gator boys take playoff series
Although St. Amant (19-13) is the No. 24 seed in the Class 5A baseball playoffs, the Gator baseball team has learned from their lessons over the season and won its series against No. 8-seed Brother Martin Crusaders.
“Our biggest challenge this year was learning to deal with adversity and becoming mentally tough,” Gators head coach Troy Templet said.
Throughout the year, St. Amant’s squad had problems individually, as well as the team as a whole, handling certain situations. But you wouldn’t have known it by the way they played this past weekend. After a loss on Friday’s series opener by the score of 9-8, the Gators overcame a five-hour rain delay and beat Brother Martin twice.
“After a tough loss on Friday night, our team responded to the loss in a different way than earlier in the season. They mentally matured well this year,” Templet said.
In the second game, St. Amant started Blayne Enlow on the mound. Enlow has been the ace all season for the Gators. Brother Martin kept their ace, Blair Frederick, for the rubber game of the series, if needed. But the junior pitcher from St. Amant stepped up to the occasion and the LSU commitment pitched for six innings, allowing only one run on four hits with nine strikeouts before the rain delay stopped the game.
After sitting through five hours of excruciating rain, the two teams finally made it back to the field. The Crusaders added a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Zane Zeppuhar struck out Kevin Stretzinger to end the game and send the series to the deciding Game 3.
“We had a couple of players respond with outstanding performances in the final game,” Templet said. “After having to pull our starter in the first inning with one out, one run scored and the bases loaded with a 3-0 count on the batter at the plate, Landon Boudreaux came in and got us out of the jam with only one additional run scored on a sacrifice fly.” Boudreaux went on to pitch for five scoreless innings.
“Our second surprise for the night was Zane Zeppuhar. He’s pitched for us in relief some this season, but not in this type of situation. He closed out Game 2 after the delay and came in Game 3 with a 3-2 lead, threw strikes and finished it up,” Templet said.
The Gators now advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals. St. Amant will move on to play No. 1 seed and two-time defending Class 5A champion Barbe on the road next week. Although the Gators are the underdog in this series, Templet said, “Our kids’ confidence level is through the roof after this weekend. They believe in themselves. We’ll have a great week of practice and prepare for Barbe’s style of play.”
Lady Bulldogs fall in semi-finals of state softball playoffs
The fourth-seeded Ascension Catholic Bulldogs (19-8) took on the LaSalle Tigers (21-9) in the Division 1A quarterfinals of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Fast Pitch 56 State Softball tournament at Frasch Park in Sulphur. The Bulldogs fell behind 3-2 through three innings but took the lead for good with a three-run fourth inning and held on for an 8-4 win. Abigail Landry and Ceily Grisaffe had hits in the fourth for Ascension Catholic.
The victory propelled the Bulldogs into the semifinals against Catholic High, of Pointe Coupee, where Ascension Catholic High School took one on the chin in a 7-4 loss. Catholic-Pointe Coupee got out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the third inning and never looking back.
The Lady Bulldogs finished the regular season with an 8-0 district record. In the semifinal game, two players’ bats accounted for all the Ascension Catholic runs. Center fielder Rae’Shaun Malancon was 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a double. Alicia Canatella also was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Lady Gators lose in extra inning
Zachary High rallied from a three-run deficit to beat seventh-seeded St. Amant High on the first day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Fast Pitch 56 State Softball tournament at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
Brooke Romano hit a two-run double that pushed the Gators to an early 2-0 lead in the third inning. Zachary pulled the game to 2-1 when Carsyn Martel scored after Carlie Schenk hit an RBI single in the fifth.
Shortstop Taylor Tidwell extended the Gator lead with a two-RBI single in the top of the sixth that upped the score to 4-1. But the Broncos came back in a big way with six hits in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two out in the bottom of the eighth, Kourtney Gremillion hit two batters before Lakyn Wales came to the plate. Wales’ RBI single up the middle brought Hannah Dixon in to score the game-winning run, giving Zachary a 5-4 victory over St. Amant.
St. Amant second at meet
Although Caddo Magnet finished first at the Baton Rouge High Gymnastics Meet with 222.100 points, the St. Amant Gators finished second with 220.050 points. The remaining teams finished: third, St. Joseph’s Academy, 218.100; fourth, Baton Rouge High, 217.750; fifth, East Ascension 212.700; sixth, E.D. White, 209.600; and seventh, Catholic-New Iberia 209.250.