Acadia Parish trio set for Fast Pitch 56 Tourney

Notre Dame’s Elise LeBeouf slides into third base during the Lady Pios’ Class 3A quarterfinal playoff victory over St. Charles last week. The Lady Pios will take on Buckeye today at noon in a semifinal contest at Sulphur’s Frasch Park. (Photo by Jason Faul)

CROWLEY – For three Acadia Parish schools, the quest for a state championship in softball begins Friday at the Fast Pitch 56 State Tournament at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
The Notre Dame Lady Pios, the Rayne Lady Wolves and the Northside Christian Warriors will each play in quarterfinal-round contests  with the winners advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round.
In Class 3A, the No. 4 seeded Lady Pios (21-5) will square off with perennial power and No. 5-seed Buckeye at noon on Field 15.
The contest will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal slugfest in which the Lady Pios won, 16-12.
“We played them last year in the semis and they have everybody returning this year, so they are a solid team,” said ND coach Dusty Collette of Buckeye. “We hit the ball last year, but so did they, so we know we’re going to be in for a battle.
“The girls have had a pretty good attitude all week and we’ve had some good practices. We feel good about it and I think if we are hitting on all cylinders, anything is possible.”
The Lady Pios pounded out 21 hits off Buckeye hurler Mikayla Brown in last season’s meeting, but Collette isn’t exactly expecting a duplicate performance today.
Brown, a Northwestern State signee, has recovered from an ACL injury and has been dominant since her return early in the season.
“Their pitcher is back and she is one of the top pitchers in the state,” said Collette. “We know we are going to have to bring our A game.”
For the Lady Pios, everything starts in the circle and that falls on the shoulders of senior pitcher Mollie Stelly.
Stelly has battled a pulled tendon for most of the season and she was limited in the Lady Pios’ regional victory over St. Charles and had to leave the game in the seventh inning.
The week’s layoff leading up to the state tournament, however, has helped and she is scheduled to get the start against the Lady Panthers.
“Mollie has had a week to rest so that was helpful and she has a new knee brace so she feels good,” said Collette of Stelly, whose injury is on her left knee. “Also, the turf is not as hard on her knee as the dirt is so she feels comfortable.
“She is focused right now and she feels good. We need her to be on and make them earn everything that they get. She doesn’t need to put any added pressure on herself, we just need her to do what she’s been doing and we’ll be fine.”
Stelly will have to contend with a Buckeye lineup that collected 13 hits off of her a year ago. The Lady Panthers also have a new addition at catcher in power-hitting sophomore Shae Schreckengost, who has 10 home runs on the season.
“Offensively, they have a big team pretty much across the board,” said Collette. “Top to bottom, they can all hit. They have some big girls and they can all swing it.
“But this year, we kind of know what to expect. It could be totally different this year: This year it could be a 3-2 game, you just never know. Mollie didn’t pitch her best last year and I’m sure their pitcher has some pitches she wishes she could take back.”
Collette is hoping this year’s matchup doesn’t turn into another barn burner. But if it does, he definitely has the lineup to counter with.
The Lady Pios are hitting .408 as a team and have six starters hitting well over .400 on the season.
“We are always confident going into any game with the lineup that we have,” said Collette. “We have some really good players that put the bat on the ball and do a really good job for us.
“We’ve had some games where we didn’t hit as well as we would have hoped, but as of late, we’ve been putting together some pretty good games (offensively). The good thing about this season is that when we have put runners in scoring position, we’ve gotten them in.”
In Class 4A, No. 22 Rayne (16-9) is on a roll after a pair of upset victories that has them taking on No. 3 Vandebilt in a quarterfinal contest at 6 p.m. on Field 13.
The Lady Wolves knocked off No. 11 Academy of Our Lady in the opening round of the playoffs and then cruised past No. 6 Lutcher (15-0) last Saturday.
Northside Christian also pulled off an upset in the opening round when the No. 11-seeded Lady Warriors knocked off No. 6 Plainview, 8-2, in a regional tilt last week.
The Lady Warriors (12-10) will take on No. 3 Calvin today in a Class C quarterfinal contest at noon on Field 19.
“We started off slow and lost some games that we should have won,” said NCS coach Ryan Hanagriff. “And we are in one of if not the toughest districts in the state in Class C so we played some good teams and saw some good pitching and I think that has helped us become a better team.
“We really started playing good fundamental softball here late in the season,” he went on, “and like they say, if there’s a time to get hot, now’s the time.”
The Lady Warriors will once again be the underdog in their playoff matchup with the Lady Cougars, but Hanagriff has no problem with that.
“We aren’t favored heading into this game, but I had a good opportunity to look at Calvin earlier in the year so we’ve been preparing for the kind of softball that they play,” said Hanagriff. “We are finally to a point where we’re playing like we know how and I think if we play like we have been playing the last few games, I think we can compete.”

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