GONZALES —The day started with a bout of nerves for St. Amant softball coach Scott Nielson and ended with his team finishing off a perfect first round of District 5-5A play.
St. Amant extended its win streak to 18 games and completed the opening round of action Tuesday with a 14-5 road victory over arch-rival East Ascension.
“Honestly, I was quite nervous until I got around the kids today,” Nielson said. “I tell the kids they’re like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. But they were dialed in and ready to go. We’re very fortunate to get through the first round without a defeat.”
St. Amant (18-2, 5-0) reached double-digit runs for the ninth time this season and collected 12 hits — including five for extra bases.
Right fielder Kayla Braud (2-for-2) had a pair of solo homers, while pitcher Kasey Nielson and designated player Kirsten Despino were each 2-for-4 with an RBI.
“I’m really proud of the kids,” coach Nielson said. “Never in a million years did I think we’d come here and score 14 runs. It’s a testament to their approach at the plate, the way they attacked the ball, and we got enough outs on defense to get the win.”
The two teams — among the state’s top five in the Class 5A power ratings — traded first-inning runs before Braud homered in the second, and St. Amant batted around and scored six times in the third for a commanding 8-1 lead.
All four of the Gators’ hits in the inning were doubles with Kara Gremillion and Madison Edmonston leading off the inning with consecutive doubles.
The inning went from bad to worse for East Ascension (15-5, 3-2) with starting pitcher Jessie Watts and reliever Kendell Burgess combining to walk three batters and uncork two wild pitches, which led to two runs.
“I didn’t think we pitched well,” EA coach Amy Pitre said. “I didn’t think we played defense behind our pitchers real well, and those are two things we had to do to compete in a ball game like this.”
St. Amant was on the cusp of a mercy-rule victory with a 13-1 lead after scoring three more runs in the top of the fifth. Kasey Nielson beat out a bunt single that resulted in a RBI, and the fourth of EA’s five errors allowed an additional two runs.
Nielson (13-1) was in complete control of EA’s offense after the first inning — retiring 12 of 14 batters — before the Spartans responded with one out in the fifth with four runs on five their 10 hits.
LSU signee Bailey Landry (2-4) crushed a two-run homer to right, shortstop Carmisha Payton (2-4) doubled in a run, and second baseman Kyleigh Leblanc’s run-scoring single extended the game beyond the fifth inning.
Braud accounted for St. Amant’s final run with a two-out homer in the seventh off Burgess, who worked 5.1 innings in relief.
“We’re happy to get out of here with a win regardless of the score,” coach Nielson said. “The kids played well and I’m proud of them.”