Despite losing several talented players that helped lead the program to three-straight state title games, the Hahnville Lady Tigers softball team is heading back to Sulphur as the top-ranked squad in Louisiana.
Hahnville head coach Kenneth Vial said he never dreamed that his team could lose so much talent and still be seeded No. 1 at this point in the season.
"Our goal every year is to be in the top eight and I thought that would be hard to do," he said. "We didnít have a great summer or a spectacular fall, but thatís because we were never completely together because we had injuries and kids playing with other summer teams.
"Once we started in January, (pitcher) Lauren Beadle continuously improved and her consistency has led to a lot of our success."
Beadle, only a sophomore, has started every Hahnville game and is currently 29-3 on the season. In the regional round, she held Destrehan to only four hits in a 3-0 Hahnville win that pushed her team into the state tournament.
This is the fifth-straight year that the Lady Tigers have advanced to Sulphur. Three players – Megan Bush, Lauren Simar and Taylor Hogan – all started in Hahnvilleís 2-1 loss to Sam Houston in last yearís state championship game. Catcher Pepper Baker also saw significant playing time last season.
But even though 11 of Hahnvilleís 21 players are only freshmen, Vial said every member of his team has experienced the state tourney in Sulphur because he brought eighth graders to the event last season.
Just watching last yearís Hahnville team advance to the state title is a huge benefit for those freshmen, Vial said.
"Teams who get there for the first time struggle because itís really more of a spectacle," Vial said. "Itís not a regular routine and everything about it, like taking pictures before a game, is uncommon. We feel good because weíve been there, done that. Thatís an advantage over some teams that havenít been there and done that."
Vial also took his squad to a tournament in Sulphur early in the season. Hahnville went 3-0 during that weekend.
"We wanted to get them on those fields so they would have something to reference," Vial said. "We played three games and we played really well."
While the team may be familiar with Sulphur, they are also familiar with their next opponent. Hahnville will face off against Mt. Carmel at noon on Friday. The Lady Tigers have played Mt. Carmel three times this season, winning two of those games. The games were all close.
Vial knows that his team will have to play one of their best games of the season to advance to the semifinals.
"Mt. Carmel is a good defensive team and they pitch really well. They also have some big bats in their lineup," he said. "Both of these teams are evenly matched and the team who plays the best will win. There is no favorite. We know itís going to be a very close, evenly contested game the whole way."
But Vial feels good about his teamís chances. Bush, one of only two seniors on the team, hit a remarkable .733 in district play. Juniors Lauren Simar, Kaylyn Morales and freshman Maeson Martindale are extremely talented in the field and senior catcher Pepper Baker hit .500 in district play. The Lady Tigers are also dangerous in the outfield with Hogan, sophomore Caitlyn Robinson and freshmen Kelly Ortego and Madison Fremen. Designated hitter Bryce Button, a sophomore, has plenty of power from the plate.
"We have a good team mentality. We donít have any superstars, but we have good players who are all capable of stepping up if they need to," Vial said.
Vial said his team is also excited to get to Sulphur, which has a unique atmosphere. All of the games are played close together, so the excitement cascades throughout the ballpark.
"Once youíve been there, played there and had success, there is nothing like it," Vial said. "It is such a great atmosphere for high school sports. Itís exciting to get on the field and play in front of massive crowds, especially all the Hahnville fans that will go because we have such great support."
Hahnville will play Mt. Carmel at noon on Friday on field 16 at Sulphurís Frasch Park.
|The Lady Tigers infield, including pitcher Lauren Beadle, third baseman Lauren Simar, shortstop Maeson Martindale, catcher Pepper Baker, second baseman Kaylyn Morales and first baseman Megan Bush, slap gloves.|