It’s ‘homeward bound’ Thursday for the Brusly Lady Panthers – or at least a trip to a ballpark that has become a second home, of sorts.
The 2013 Class 3A state champions will set out to keep their trophy another year when they battle to keep their top spot at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Fast Pitch 56 Softball Championship Tournament at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
“It’s what every team strives for,” Brusly Head Softball Coach Beau Bouvier said. “It’s as tough as can be.”
Now regarded as something of a “Yankee Stadium” of Louisiana high school softball, the Lady Panthers will compete with other 3A teams for what they hope will end in their fourth – and first-ever consecutive – state championship.
“We have a chance to write the final chapter, and make it one of the best stories ever in the history of our program,” Bouvier said.
The No. 3-seeded Lady Panthers (23-8) tangle with 11th-seeded Jena at 2 p.m. on Field 14.
The winner collides with the victor of North Vermillion (7) vs. Kaplan (2), which will roll the same time at Field 15.
The opposite bracket features top-seeded John Curtis vs. Evangel Christian (8) and 2013 3A runner-up Notre Dame (4) vs. Buckeye (5).
The Lady Panthers are well acquainted with the surroundings at Frasch Park, but it does not take away from the monumental task to reach the “Big Dance.”
“When you play high school softball, it’s precisely where you want to be,” Bouvier said. “But you can play there many times, yet the tournament is an entirely different thing – the competition level goes up big time.”
The quarterfinal meeting marks the second consecutive year Brusly has faced Jena in the Fast Pitch 56. The Lady Panthers nudged Jena 2-1 last year to reach the championship game.
The Lady Panthers defeated Notre Dame 5-3 for the 2013 3A state title
Bouvier said that all eight teams in the tournament possess enough skills to win the championship.
“I told the girls last year, when the teams were so young, that I had a feeling those teams would be back – there are no surprises in 3A,” he said. “You have to play your best ball here, and the team that does it best over the two days is the one that will do it.
“That can be anybody, but we feel we can do it,” Bouvier said.
Brusly heads to the city 20 miles east of the Texas line after a 7-3 win over No. 19 Church Point in the regional bracket and a 10-0 rout over 7-3A foe West Feliciana (30) in the opening round.
Camryn Comeaux improved to 7-2 at the mound after she held Church Point to five hits. She also finished 2-for-3 with a double and one run. Jonette Fitzgerald (1-4) had a double and two RBI, while Carlie Comeaux was 1-for-4 with a triple and one RBI.
A Comeaux steal of home gave the Lady Panthers a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Fitzegerald followed with a double to center that brought home Maddie LaPrairie (who singled to shortstop) and Shelby Willis, who reached second on a fielder’s choice.
Against West Feliciana, a Willis single to center drove home Kaitlin David to end the game after six innings.
David finished 3-for-3 with two runs and three RBI, while Akiya Thymes had three runs and Taylor two.
Camryn Comeaux struck out seven in the no-hitter.
The Lady Panthers built a 6-0 lead after two runs in each of the first three innings.
Thymes scored the first run from a Comeaux sacrifice while a LaPrarie line-drive triple to center brought home David.
Senior Lanisha Taylor scored on a Comeaux ground-out to short. David followed with a two-bagger that gave Thymes the scoring go-ahead.
Fitzgerald padded the head when she scored after leading off on a single to center.
Brusly continued its onslaught in the bottom of the fourth when Thymes and Comeaux scored on a David single to center. A Willis sacrifice fly to left brought home David.