The ball launched off the bat of Lauren Crochet, rocketing toward the centerfield wall, and a comeback that seemed almost unthinkable just two innings earlier was on the verge of completion for the Hahnville Lady Tigers.
But the ball came up just short, caught at the warning track by Ponchatoula, and one out later the Green Wave had survived a furious comeback.
No. 17 Ponchatoula earned a 10-9 victory at No. 16 Hahnville in Monday’s Division I non-select playoff matchup, advancing to round two to face off with No. 1 St. Amant.
“Tough one … that’s a tough one,” said Hahnville head coach Todd Schulz. “It’s like I told them, there aren’t a lot of words for it … we just didn’t get it done today. It wasn’t our time.”
The game was an offensive showcase, with a combined six home runs between the two teams. Ponchatoula led 10-3 entering the bottom of the 6th inning, but a pair of three-run bombs by Brianna Keller and Karli Bourg over the next two innings cut the seven-run Wave lead to just one.
Keller finished the day with a 2-for-3, two run, three RBI line while Bourg went 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs for Hahnville (19-11). Brazzi Jacob ignited the Tiger offense, which struggled early, with her own three-run home run. She went 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs as well.
But their power was matched by the Ponchatoula trio of Abby Dagro, Rae’el Wheat and Christina Curtis, each of whom homered in the game. Wheat went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs. Dagro was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run, while Curtis went 1-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“Hitting the ball out the park isn’t normal … we’re just trying to go gap to gap. It’s how you be successful in softball, baseball too, but especially softball – move the ball gap to gap. Top to bottom, we don’t have a weak spot in our lineup … you either have speed or you have pop. Our girls have been shining,” said Ponchatoula head softball coach Jeremy Harper.
In the fifth inning, it seemed that Ponchatoula might finish the matter early by a 10-run rule – the Wave posted a dominant start to the game and led 8-0 after the top of the fifth inning, the two of those runs coming on Wheat’s two-run shot to left field.
Hahnville wasn’t about to let its season end without a fight. Keller singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, while Adeline Bertrand doubled to set the table for Jacob, who blasted a ball to center that left the yard and put HHS on the board, making it 8-3.
Ponchatoula came through for what ultimately became a critical answer. Brianna Chavarria singled to lead off the sixth, then with one out, Curtis socked a home run to center that pushed Ponchatoula ahead 10-3.
Bourg and Amberly Dempster led off the next inning with back-to-back singles, and with one out Keller drove the ball out the park for Hahnville’s second home run of the day, making it 10-6.
Hahnville’s Kloe White retired the side in order in the top of the seventh, including two strikeouts, giving the Tigers one last chance – and the crowd a thrilling ending.
The Tigers had one out when Jacob singled to get things started. Jenna Cancienne was hit by a pitch, then Bourg slammed a home run to left that brought the crowd to its feet.
Schulz said as the game went on, the Tigers were more and more aggressive early in the count and it paid dividends.
“I think we started picking up on the change … she would get ahead on that. We capitalized on it and got some big hits,” he said.
Dempster reached on an error, bringing the game-winning run to the plate. Crochet made strong contact and nearly lifted it out – but ultimately, reliever Grace Schwaibold notched the day’s final two outs to earn the save.
All season, after wins and after losses, Schulz comes to a familiar note about his players – he was proud to have a team of fighters. Though it came in a loss, Monday’s game showed the truth in that belief.
“I think the score speaks for itself – to be down 10-3 entering the sixth and to end 10-9, it goes to show,” Schulz said. “The energy in the dugout was there all day, even from the girls who don’t get as much playing time, they just bring the energy. We feed off it.
“This game is so much more than softball. It’s nice when you have seniors who are going to go on and play college ball, but at the end of the day, you want them to leave as better people. And the core we have … this is my class, the group that came in as little biddy freshmen when I arrived here. They’ve grown up into women … I’m proud and I think the sky is the limit for them, because they’re going to become something big.”