Jerry Nugent has been around the game of softball for a long time. He’s coached champions and coached against them, and he knows what that kind of team looks like.
And in the eyes of the Hahnville softball coach, his 2018 squad has that potential.
“They have as good a chance as any team I’ve ever coached (to win a championship),” Nugent said. “They have everything they need to do it. This is probably the most athletic team I’ve ever had in terms of having those multi-tool players. Sometimes you have players who are nothing but speed or nothing but power, but we have a number of three, four and five-tool players.”
Seven of the Tigers’ 10 starters are back from last year’s team that returned to Sulphur for the state softball tournament. It was Hahnville’s first appearance there since 2013, and though their stay was a short one — the Tigers were eliminated in the quarterfinal round, their first game at Sulphur — the experience should prove invaluable for this year’s team.
“It’s never easy to get there,” Nugent said. “I can tell you, having done this for 21 years, and I’ve been fortunate to be to Sulphur many times … I’ve never seen a team win 5A in their first time out there. It’s a wonderful experience, but a unique, pressure-filled experience that you can’t simulate without being there.”
Experience is an overall strength of this squad. Six seniors start for Hahnville, Nugent noting almost all of them have been starting since their freshman seasons.
“They all have over 180 games of high school softball under their belts, not to mention countless tournaments and summer ball,” Nugent said. “There’s not much they haven’t seen. They’ve had to battle and overcome a lot of things.”
The Tigers lost a back-and-forth opener to the season, after Parkview Baptist scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to capture a 5-3 victory at Hahnville.
Parkview led 3-0 in the second inning before Catherine Friloux’s solo home run earned the Tigers their first run of the season. Hahnville tied the game in the third inning on an RBI by Makenna Cortez and a steal of home by Karly Taranto.
That score held until Maddie Watson’s line drive in the seventh scored the go-ahead run. She came around to score later that inning to make it 5-3, and Hahnville couldn’t answer.
Danielle Duplay went 2 for 3 with a run scored. Bayleigh Baudoin went 2-for-3 with a walk and double.
Taranto went the complete game, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits. She walked four and struck out five.
Facing a perennial contender like Parkview Baptist, Nugent said, is part of an effort to challenge his team as much as possible in preparation to make a deep playoff run. The schedule is peppered with annual contenders like St. Amant, John Curtis and Mount Carmel.
“You can go through the whole season steamrolling teams you know you can beat, but it in no way prepares you to make a run in the postseason,” Nugent said. “Our goal is to be the last team standing on April 29. Pretty much anyone you’d anticipate to be a very difficult team, we put them on the schedule.”