Tigers eye return to Sulphur

Hahnville hasn’t been to the state softball tournament in Sulphur since 2013, but the Tigers have plenty of reason to believe that drought ends this year.

The Tigers enter the this season boasting plenty of experience and proven productivity, bringing back nine starters from a season ago — only third baseman Maeson Martindale graduated from last year’s core — and coach Jerry Nugent believes this team can go as far as the work it’s willing to put in.

“It’s really up to us,” Nugent said. “Our expectation is to be playing on the last day of the season.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career to coach some teams that have had the talent to make it to Sulphur, and to have one to win it. This team has what it takes, but we have to do it when it counts. It’s great to have talent and to do it in scrimmages and practices, but you can’t rest on it.”

Hahnville opened the season Tuesday at home against perennial power John Curtis, battling to a 3-3 tie. The game was called after seven innings because of darkness. Nugent said it was still to be determined if the teams would schedule a date to finish the game or if they would settle on the tie.

Things won’t get much easier from there. Hahnville’s annual tournament (Mar. 2-4)  includes matchups with a defending state champion in Alexandria, Sam Houston and Central-Baton Rouge. Other non-district games include clashes with Mount Carmel, Walker and Parkview Baptist.

“If you’re going to make a legit run, you have to be battle tested,” Nugent said. “There’s no other way around it. In 20 years of doing this,  that’s the one certainty I can say with scheduling. You’ve gotta have those battles. If you go into the playoffs with an inflated record with no experience, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Among the team’s top returning players is senior centerfielder Pryscilla Prince, who earned All-State honors in 2016 after batting .441 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs. Left fielder Sara Van Etta (.439, nine home runs, 41 RBIs)and second baseman Danielle Duplay (.454, 28 runs scored, 18 RBIs) each come off big seasons.

On the mound will be Karly Taranto for her second season of action as the team’s primary pitcher, after earning a 22-8 record and a 2.96 ERA as a junior.

“I think (her experience last year is) critical,” Nugent said. “It’s the hardest position on the field. You get a lot of credit when the team wins and a lot of heat when things don’t go well. To have a year’s experience where she pitched in a lot of big games, it’s something you can’t put a price on.”

Another boost is the return of sophomore Bayleigh Baudouin, who earned a starting job as a freshman only to be lost for the season with a broken wrist. Baudouin went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the opener and made a pair of impressive defensive plays at shortstop.

“She’s back and even better,” Nugent said. “She’s a very good talent and she works very, very hard. Her teammates love her for that. She never takes a play off.”

Catherine Friloux went 2-for-3 Tuesday for Hahnville. Sarah VanEtta went 1-for-4 and drove in a run. Karly Taranto pitched the complete game, allowing six hits and allowing three runs (two earned). She struck out three and walked five.

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