As softball season gets cranked up this week, Hahnville has its eye on late April — specifically, a return to the state softball tournament in Sulphur for the first time since 2013.
Eight starters return for the Tigers this season, but the one player missing from last year’s lineup was a major key to Hahnville’s success. Pitcher Lauren Beadle graduated, earning a scholarship to pitch at Centenary, and sophomore Karly Taranto will step in to take her place.
Beadle’s are big shoes to fill, for sure, a former All-State selection and four time All-District player. But Taranto, Nugent says, has the talent and the mentality to excel on the mound.
“She handles both adversity and success very well,” Nugent said. “She stays on an even keel, and that can be very difficult as a pitcher. The ones who find success, typically, are the ones who figure that out … she’s coming along very well. She’s an extremely hard-worker and she has a good assortment of pitches. Karly has tremendous upside.”
The Tigers finished one game shy of reaching the state softball tournament in Sulphur last season, falling in the second round at Dutchtown, 3-2. HHS will attempt to end a two-year drought of Sulphur trips this season. The Tigers went to Sulphur as the top seed in Class 5A in 2013 and reached the state championship game in each of the previous three seasons, winning the state crown in 2011.
“Win district, get to Sulphur, and win state. Those are our three goals,” Nugent said. “I look over at my three seniors and I’m sure they’ll say the same.”
Pryscilla Prince and Maeson Martindale are two of the team’s top returning hitters. Martindale will hold down third base, while Prince will play in the outfield after spending last season at second base, though Nugent said she will also see time in the infield again. Kamryn Keller also returns to provide some punch after leading the Tigers in RBIs last season.
“We’ve got a good balance of speed and power,” Nugent said. “I think we have more athletes from top to bottom of our 23 player roster than we’ve had here since we made those runs at Sulphur. I think our depth is certainly a strength. We’re two deep at every position and that gives us a lot of versatility.”
That said, Hahnville remains young, if still fairly experienced. The roster is packed with freshmen and sophomores.
“But they’ve played a lot of softball,” Nugent said. “Every season is unique and we still have to see some things play out, but although we have a lot of youngsters, even our sophomores who didn’t start last season saw varsity action. It’s not as if they’re being thrown to the wolves.”
WILDCATS SEEK FIFTH STRAIGHT PLAYOFF SEASON
Destrehan, meanwhile, is attempting to reach the 5A playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, and an experienced group of players seem primed to make that a reality.
Senior Krista Robles is among six returning starters for Destrehan. A two-time All-District selection after converting to pitcher as a sophomore, Robles has emerged as the team’s leader, according to Destrehan coach Kenny Montz.
“Krista is a relentless worker,” Montz said. “She’s just gotten better and better. She’s signed with Pearl River Community College … she’s worked her way up to being a college level pitcher. She throws three or four pitches consistently for strikes and she’s led this team.
“We’re expecting big things from her.”
Senior shortstop Taylor Lucich is another returning All-District player who Montz said has become a reliable producer.
“She’s always been a really good athlete,” Montz said. “She doesn’t say a whole lot, but she’s one of our most respected leaders. She’s put in hours and hours of hard work to become the player she is, and that really shows on the field.”
Montz said he believes experience will be a boon for his team this season after a hot finish in 2015.
“We went through some growing pains at the beginning of last season,” Montz said. “We were young last year and we really took a lot of our losses early in the year. In the second half of the season, we really started to come together.”
Some nagging injuries have created some concerns for Montz as far as depth, at least early in the season.
But the coach has great confidence in this group, something manifested by the schedule he’s put together for the 2016 campaign. Montz said this year’s predistrict fare will be a tougher slate overall as he hopes to prepare his team to play its best in District 7-5A play and the postseason. Games against strong teams like St. Amant, East Ascension and Alexandria pepper non-district play—Destrehan will face the latter twice in a rematch of last season’s first round playoff action, where Alexandria eliminated Destrehan, 4-2.
“Then once you get to district, you see Hahnville,” Montz said. “You play teams of that caliber and it makes you better. This year we’ve lined up a lot more tough teams for that reason.”