The Brusly High softball team returns Thursday to what has become its home away from home.
The Lady Panthers make another bid for the Class 3A state championship in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Fast Pitch 56 at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
Top-seeded Brusly (30-2) faces No. 8 seed Crowley in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Friday on Field 15.
Brusly enters the softball extravaganza after a bi-district win over Avoylles and regional victory at South Beauregard.
Even after three years, the softball complex mesmerizes the Lady Panthers.
“It’s pretty indescribable the feeling I get through this gates,” junior Carlie Comeaux said. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
The Lady Panthers make their third consecutive trip to the tournament. BHS fell short to Catholic-New Iberia in the 2011 3A championship game and lost in extra innings to eventual champion Buckeye in the 2012 semifinals.
“We’re hoping the third time is the charm,” Comeaux said.
Even after three years in the tournament, it still amazes starting pitcher Carli Jo LeBlanc (23-1), who has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the state.
“It all feels like a dream,” she said. “Since I was a middle school, I’ve dreamed about high school ball and getting into the state tournament. Now that I’ve been to it twice and at it again, it’s still a thrill.”
The Lady Panthers seem more confident than ever that they can capture the state title that has eluded them the last two trips to Sulphur.
“The biggest difference this year is that I think this team has more heart,” junior Lanisha Taylor said. “The ‘word’ quit is not in our vocabulary … not at all.”
Sophomore Akiya Thymes looks back at the history program and believes lightning can strike twice.
“It’s weird because the first championship team won on April 27, 1991,” she said. “This year, the championship game is April 27.”
Thymes feels optimistic about her team’s chances.
“Last year, we came out short, but I’m more confident about this year. I think we play better as a team and I think we’re a lot better than we were last year,” she said. “We’re taking one game at a time. We’re not looking past Crowley on Friday.”
Amid the confidence, tension will run at a fever pitch heading into Friday’s game.
“I have butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it,” LeBlanc said. “I’m just trying to take it game by game, and then get to Saturday. I’m focusing on what I have to do, and my team is focusing on what they have to do.”
Comeaux, meanwhile, says experience at Frasch Park has kept her calm thus far.
“I’m not really nervous this year … I really think we can do it,” she said. “We’ve gelled as a team and pulled out wins like no other time. We’ve all played together since we were 8 or 9, so we can almost reach each other’s time. We’ve come together in all aspects of the game.”
All of those aspects of the game will come together during the practices leading up to Sulphur.
Head coach Beau Bouvier wants to use the next few days to hone and fine-tune what they already have in place.
“We told them the net two days we will be working on our stuff, what we need to improve on,” he said. “Wednesday, we’ll work on Crowley and get as much information as we can to go against them. On Thursday, it’s off to Sulphur.
“It’s an exciting week for the girls and they deserve it,” Bouvier said. “The thing I like about this team is that they never give up.”
The Lady Panthers know other teams will target them in the tournament, Bouvier said.
It’s no different from the last two years, he said.
“We’ve known we’re the team everyone’s gunning for,” Bouvier said. “We’ve been the number-two seed the last two years, so we’ve been everyone’s best shot.
“We’ve had targets on our backs the last few years,” he said. “This year, I think the experience will help us big time because our girls know what to expect. We have all the belief in the world we’ll get the job done.”
ROAD TO SULPHUR …
The resilience paid off when the Lady Panthers withstood a two-run SBHS rally in the fourth inning to prevail 7-2 in action Friday.
Allie Parker singled home Kodie Bunch and Brooke Fontenot scored on a fielder’s choice to come within two runs of the Lady Panthers.
The Lady Panthers responded in the sixth when Thymes walked and scored off a Carli Comeaux double. A Taylor double brought Comeaux home, while Taylor reached home on a Kaitlin Daigle single.
Maddie LaPrairie – who led off with a single – scored the first run of the game in the second when Claire Daigle reached first on an error.
The Lady Panthers stretched their lead by two runs off a Camryn Comeaux two-bagger. BHS padded its lead when a courtesy runner scored off a Shelby Fleming hit.
LeBlanc mounted five strikeouts across the first two frames.
LaPrairie finished 3-4 with two doubles and two runs, while Carlie Comeaux (2-4) had a double, RBI and one run. Camryn Comeaux had two RBIs.
Three days earlier, LeBlanc threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 in a 10-0 win in five innings over No. 32 seed Avoylles in the bi-district round.
LaPrairie (2-3) had two runs and two RBIs. David (1-3) chalked a double, one run and one RBI.
The Lady Panthers posted six runs in the second and another four in the fourth.