SULPHUR – It’s harder to repeat as a champion than to win a title. The quest to unseat a champion is no picnic, either.
Both claims rang true with the Brusly-Jena 3A quarterfinal showdown in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Fast Pitch 56 softball championships at Frasch Park.
The lead swung four times before 11th-seeded Jena erupted with five runs in the eighth inning for a 13-8 win over No. 3 seed Brusly.
“It was a dogfight, a game where nobody wanted to back down,” Brusly coach Beau Bouvier said. “We made mistakes and didn’t make the big plays, but I’m still very proud of the girls.”
The loss ended the season 21-9 for the 2013 Class 3A champion Lady Panthers. It also squashed Brusly’s hopes to become the first softball team in school history to win consecutive state titles.
Jena pulled the win out of Brusly’s reach in the bottom of the eighth after back-to-back two-run doubles by Tahyana Duncan and Daryann Tucker. Braean Burlev batted in Tucker for the final run.
The Lady Giants pulled off the heartbreaker when they stopped Brusly on three consecutive outs after the Lady Panthers loaded the bases in their first three at-bats in the bottom of the eighth.
A Camryn Comeaux single to center loaded the bases after Carlie Comeaux led off with a single to right and Kaitlin David walked.
“We didn’t lose – Jena won,” Bouvier said. “But this kind of competition teaches them about life and how you win some and you lose some.
“I still hate to see it end this way for the girls after they worked so hard for this all season,” he said.
Brusly forced extra innings in the bottom of the seventh when a Claire Daigle sacrifice brought home Jade Fitzgerald for an 8-8 logjam.
Neither team spared much at the plate. Jena chalked a stunning 18 hits to Brusly’s 13.
Tucker’s two-run homer in the top of the first gave Jena the opening lead,
LSU commit Akiya Thymes scored on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the first for a Lady Panther run.
Pitcher Camryn Comeaux sent back Jena with two runners stranded after she struck out Shelby Noker.
Brusly did not muster any runs in the bottom of the second, and stuffed Jena on a double play with runners at first and second that held back the Lady Giants.
“That was huge for us,” Bouvier said. “At that point, it helped us stay in the game.”
A three-run rally gave Brusly the lead in the bottom of the third. Madison LaPrarie singled home Carlie Comeaux to tie the game, while a Claire Daigle one-bagger brought home Alex Dexter (courtesy runner for Camryn Comeaux) and LaPrarie to give BHS a 4-2 lead.
Neither team gained ground in the fourth inning, but Jena broke loose for four runs in the fifth. Three came off a fly to center that bounced off the fielder’s glove when she lost it in the glare of the sun. A Kenzie Thompson triple drove in one more run and gave the Lady Giants a 6-4 lead.
Brusly did not allow Jena much time to celebrate. A Jade Fitzgerald double to center scored LaPrarie and Shelby Willis to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth. LaPrarie led off on a walk and Willis reached first on a grounder to left.
The Lady Panther pulled ahead in the bottom of the sixth when Carleigh Comeaux scored on a sacrifice fly.
Jena finished its season 21-7 after a 13-3 loss in the Class 3A title game against top-seeded John Curtis. The Lady Giants reached the championship game after an 8-1 win over perennial contender Notre Dame, the No. 4 seed in the brackets.
The quarterfinal clash Friday marked the third time in so many years Brusly crossed paths with Jena.
The Lady Panthers eliminated Jena in quarterfinal action at the 2012 Fast Pitch 56 and nipped the Lady Giants 2-1 in the semifinals, en route to the state title win last year.