Tamara Larche had just finished pitching a three-hit shutout of Fontainebleau to lead the Slidell High softball team to the District 6-5A championship.
She was aware of the many district title banners that hung from Fontainebleau’s right-field fence behind her, and like most everyone else, had suffered some humbling losses to the Bulldogs in recent years. But now, Larche said, it was time for her team to hang a championship banner of its own.
“The district title needs to be at home in Slidell,” she said.
And, for a year at least, it will be.
But now, the Tigers turn their attention to bigger goals — namely the state softball playoffs.
Brackets will be released on Thursday, and Slidell (17-4, 12-0) is expected to be a high seed in Class 5A. The Tigers were scheduled to have nondistrict games against Sumner on Monday and St. Thomas Aquinas on Wednesday before learning who they will host in the postseason.
Slidell started the season 1-3 with losses to Zachary, Live Oak and Parkview Baptist in the Denham Springs tournament. Since then, the Tigers have been nearly unbeatable — winning 16 of 17 games, with the only setback coming to John Curtis on March 5.
Slidell had some dominant performances against league opponents, but its approach has been much more steady than showy. That’s perfectly fine with coach Robin Herdliska, who has said throughout the season that this group finds ways to win.
“They just show up and do their jobs,” Herdliska said. “They go to work and have fun, but they get the job done. Everything we’ve preached over the past three years — do the right thing, work hard, do extra — has just fallen into place.”
Herdliska is not surprised by the team’s success. With six seniors in the lineup, Slidell has played with poise, especially in close games. The team has been exceptionally sharp on defense, and Larche has led the way in the circle and at the plate.
“I’ve known for years this team was going to be good,” Herdliska said. “We played some really tough teams (early in the season). So this team learned what it needed to do, and what it needed to work on. They’ve kept at it.”
In an interesting wrinkle, Herdliska hasn’t publically shared her team’s statistics this season. She knows each of her players’ batting averages (and the players likely do too), but they all said they’re focused on team goals rather than individual numbers. The “selfless” approach has worked so far.
“It feels amazing to win district and to know you have the whole team behind you,” junior center fielder Allison Vincent said. “Everyone is playing as a whole. When someone starts (playing well), it’s contagious. You get one hit, and people follow. Then you get the wins you work for.”
Senior shortstop Angel Nikolas said believing you are going to play well and actually doing it are two different things.
“We knew from the beginning that we had good talent and that this could be a good season for us,” Nikolas said. “But we couldn’t underestimate anybody. So probably from the first game in district, that was (a turning point). We gave it our best and had to keep that going. We had to keep the momentum up.”
Senior outfielder Gabrielle Aguilar said momentum is big, but focus is more important to the Tigers.
“This is more mental,” she said. “If you’re mentally in the game, you move on. The hits start falling and the wins start coming.”
Herdliska would like to see the victories continue.
“We were in a slump in the beginning of the season with our bats,” she said. “They came around. Someone has found a way to pick it up in each game. Everything is clicking.”