Top-ranked softball squad eyes strong finish
Hahnville’s 24-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of host Mandeville, which took a 5-2 lead after three innings and held off a Tigers rally for a 5-4 victory in a battle of highly-ranked teams.
The Tigers entered the game ranked first in the state in Class 5A and as highly as third in the nation, while Mandeville entered as 5A’s fifth-ranked squad.
Margaret Morgan’s three-run triple in the first inning gave Mandeville a 3-2 lead, which the Skippers extended to 5-2 on Savannah Hetler’s two-run home run in the third inning.
Hahnville (24-3) pulled within a run in the seventh inning after Sarah VanEtta doubled home a run and Danielle Duplay tripled her home. But Mandeville pitcher Grace O’Berry got Courtney Ortego to fly out to end the threat.
It was a battle of two teams playing at the highest level. Hahnville entered on a wave of dominance during its win streak, while Mandeville entered the game having outscored its previous 10 opponents by over 100 runs.
“Mandeville played very well. We played well but not as good as they did,” said Hahnville coach Jerry Nugent. “We struggled in areas we’d been doing well in. We didn’t play our best game but we were right in it until the end. It is what it is. They’re a top five team in the state and when you get to this point in the season, nobody ranked that high is a fluke.”
Ortego drove in two runs to lead Hahnville at the plate, her day including a home run early in the game. Karly Taranto took just her third loss of the season, going a complete game and allowing two earned runs (five total) on eight hits and six walks. She struck out six.
Nugent said there were no smiles on the faces of his players in the aftermath of the loss, but that he got the impression his players understood how to respond to their first loss since game two of the season.
“You have to test yourself every day if you’re a ballplayer. A lot of times you learn more about yourself after a loss than when the outcome isn’t so favorable,” Nugent said. “Everyone’s happy when you win. After a loss you have to rely on one another.
“I could sense their disappointment, but at the same time, I was proud of the way they handled it. With our leaders, I could see the motivation there. They were talking about having to refocus ourselves and letting one slip away. Nobody belabored what went wrong because we knew where we fell short.”
He added as much as a loss can be beneficial, his team could build on the experience.
“It’s better that it happens now than in three weeks,” Nugent said, alluding to the playoffs. “A tough loss, but we can definitely learn from it.”
The Tigers broke their program’s previous record win streak of 21 in a row with victories over East St. John in Thibodaux last week. The team toppled Thibodaux for its 24th and final streak victory, earning a 15-0 win that ended in three innings by the 15-run rule.
Ortego continued to swing a hot bat, driving in five runs in the game while scoring two, the highlight of her day a Grand Slam home run. Bayleigh Baudouin went 2-for3 with two RBIs and Catherine Friloux went 2-for-2, including two doubles, with three RBIs. VanEtta went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and hit a home run.
The game was Hahnville’s annual Pink Game that raises money for cancer research. The team honored a group of cancer survivors who were close to the program. The team also unveiled a section of the outfield wall dedicated to Darrin Beadle, who passed away last year after his battle against the illness. Beadle is the father of former HHS standout pitcher Lauren Beadle and was known to be a major supporter of the Hahnville program.
Now, Nugent hopes to see his team put together another win streak, one that extends into and through the postseason – and specifically, Sulphur.
“If we can win 12 or so in a row to end the season, including those five in the playoffs, I can tell you right now I’ll enjoy that one more than the 24 gamer,” Nugent quipped.