Lady Tigers ready for return to state tournament

Hahnville senior outfielder Pryscilla Prince has never played a game at the state softball tournament in Sulphur, nor have any of her teammates. That’s about to change. The Lady Tigers are set to play their first game at what people call the “Mecca” of softball in Louisiana at 5 p.m. Friday (April 28) when the No. 8 seed squares off with top-seeded and defending Class 5A champion Alexandria in a 5A state quarterfinal game at Frasch Park.

Hahnville (29-6) qualified for the state tourney with a 14-3 home win over Fontainebleau in last Thursday’s regional round game. It is the Tigers’ first trip to the state tournament since 2013.

“It’s pretty overwhelming, because you grow up, go out there and watch all the older girls play at state,” said Prince. “Our senior class has been deprived of that the past four years … I don’t think any of us had a doubt that we’d come out on top (and make it to Sulphur).”

Prince said she and her teammates have made the sacrifices necessary to make a deep postseason run.

“We prepare probably more than any team in this bracket, whether it’s No. 1 or No. 32,” Prince said. “On our spring break, we’ve been out here practicing. We’re all dedicated to this softball team … we’re out here and we’re excited to play. We weren’t sad to be spending our spring break out here. We were here to play ball.”

Senior pitcher Karly Taranto echoed that sentiment.

“We know this is the end of the season, and we’re pushing now,” she said.

“We’ve pushed all season, but now it’s a different kind of push because we see our goal. We’re out here every morning … to have the chance to play (in Sulphur) is awesome. It’s really exciting.”

Nugent said while there have been teams over the years facing first-time tournament that have made him nervous, this group does anything but.

“Sometimes, you’re not sure how a team will handle it. But Every time this team has dealt with a challenge, they’ve managed to fight their way through it,” Nugent said. “We’ve definitely been playing our best ball for the last month or so. Our practices have been very focused and crisp. This team has been very goal-oriented, workmanlike, focused … all you can ask a team to be at this time of year.”

Alexandria does pose a daunting challenge. The Trojans charged through Sulphur last season, besting both semifinal and championship opponents by 7-0 scores. This season, the team has established itself as a strong contender to repeat, going 23-2 and beating several perennially strong programs. Among those significant wins was a 8-0 victory over Hahnville March 24, a game that was tight for five innings before the Trojans scored five runs over the final two innings to put Hahnville away.

Nugent believes his team is playing better ball since that game and sees a tight, competitive showdown on the horizon.

“They’re an experienced, senior-heavy, complete team that’s been there before and won,” Nugent said. “You’re gonna have to earn everything you get against them. You can’t take the field against them expecting them to throw the ball around and give you an edge.

“It’s a case where two top-tier teams are playing, and it comes down to who makes the least amount of mistakes and who plays best on that day.”

To get to this point, Hahnville put together an impressive five-inning performance against Fontainebleau last week that saw the Tigers post 14 runs on 12 hits, nine of them for extra bases including including a home run by Catherine Friloux,  triples by Allison Plaisance and Bayleigh Baudouin and two doubles by Prince. Hahnville batted around in each of the first two innings. Kamryn Keller, Bayleigh Baudouin, Plaisance and Sarah VanEtta each doubled.

Friloux’s second inning home run, a towering two-run shot over Hahnville’s center field wall and banner, pushed the Tigers ahead 8-0 and ignited a run of eight straight Tigers reaching base.

“I knew I had a job to do. I had runners on and I had to do my job in that situation,” Friloux said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

The winner of Hahnville/Alexandria will face the winner of No. 4 Central-Baton Rouge and No. 5. Sam Houston. Rounding out the Class 5A bracket are No. 3 St. Amant, No. 11 Live Oak, No. 7 Barbe and No. 2 Ouachita Parish.

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