Seven Defending Champions Look to Defend Crowns At Fast Pitch 56 Softball State Finals

Posted by: Ron Brocato, SportsNOLA Prep Writer in Prep Sports

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SULPHUR – Of the 56 teams that will converge on the softball diamonds at Frasch Park tomorrow are six highly-seeded teams from the Greater New Orleans, including two reigning state champions, eager to repeat.

Although Hahnville did not enter the 2012 Class 5A playoffs as the No. 1 seed, the Lady Tigers appear to be in the driver's seat thanks to a key upset in the regional round when Denham Springs eliminated the top seed, West Monroe.

The other returning champion is Archbishop Hannan, which enters the Class 1A quarterfinal round as the No. 3 seed. The Lady Hawks' first opponent is a No. 22 seed, Westminster, which surprisingly made it to the quarterfinals with a 14-15 record.

The "Fast Pitch 56," also includes Belle Chasse and the Academy of Our Lady in the Class 4A field, St. Charles Catholic vying for its second Class 3A championship since 2008 and District 10-2A rivals John Curtis and Riverside Academy.

The tournament gets the "play ball" call at noon at the softball complex's eight fields. Over a two-day span, seven state champions will be crowned.

The field includes all 2011 state champions: Hahnville, 5-A; Sam Houston, 4A, now competing in the 5A field this year; Catholic of New Iberia, the 3A titlist competing as a Class 2A school; Evangel, 2A; Hannan, 1A; Oak Hill, B, and Hackberry, the Class C champ.

Today's winners will return on Saturday for morning and early afternoon semifinal round games. The championship round games are set for 5 and 7 p.m.

Class 5A – Hahnville's first task is to get past the East Ascension at noon tomorrow, which the Lady

Tigers' 29-2 record would indicate they will against the No. 22 seed, whose record is 16-15. Hahnville has beaten the Lady Spartans, 10-0, in a Feb. 23 game.

For Hahnville to repeat, it will have to get past the Live Oak-St. Amant winner in the semifinals to earn a spot in the championship game on Saturday. Live Oak is one of two teams that have defeated the Lady Tigers, a 6-1 decision on March 10.

Although Live Oak (22-6) and St. Amant (26-3) are in different Baton Rouge area districts, the two have met with St. Amant winning easily, 10-0, in a tournament match.

Class 4A – Belle Chasse (23-9) and Our Lady (19-11) are no strangers to each other. The two share the Westbank of the Mississippi River communities and share the District 9-4A title by splitting the series (Belle Chasse winning the first, 1-0, then AOL returning the favor, 6-5. Tomorrow they compete on different sides of the 4A bracket.

The Lady Cardinals, a No. 4 seed, faces No. 12 West Ouachita (16-14) at 4 p.m. A victory will have the Plaquemines Parish school in the semis against either No. 1 Vandebilt Catholic (24-6) or No. 8 Teurlings Catholic (17-9), neither of which Belle Chasse has faced.

Academy of Our Lady drew the No. 18 seed, but made a statement that it belongs in the elite 56-team field by eliminating No. 15 St. Louis and the No. 2 seed, Alexandria, 5-3, in the April 21 regional round. The win placed the Penguins in a good quarterfinal round position, with a match against the No. 23 seed, Northwood of Shreveport, whose record 19-7. This game is set for noon tomorrow.

A victory places the Penguins in the semifinals against either No. 3 Neville (25-4) or Leesville (16-12), which holds a 3-1 win over Neville.

Class 3A – St. Charles has been a finalist in either the 2A or 3A tournaments three times and last won a championship in 2008. As a No. 7 seed, the Lady Comets (23-5) opens quarterfinal round play at noon with a familiar opponent; District 7-3A rival Brusly with whom they shared the district championship by splitting their two-game series.

This promises to be one of the key matches of the day.

Brusly (24-8) is the No. 2 seed and the 2011 Class 3A runner-up, which lost to St. Charles, 11-6, on March 13 and hasn't look back since, winning 16 straight games entering this rubber match. And that includes a 2-1 game to the Lady Comets.

There is no sigh of relief for the winner. The team that moves onto the semifinals will face either No. 3 Buckeye (24-2) or No. 6 Notre Dame (23-9) at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Class 2A – District 10-2A mates, John Curtis and Riverside came within a game of meeting each other for the Class 2A title last year, but were sent packing when Kinder eliminated Curtis, 10-8, and eventual champion Evangel eliminated the Lady Rebels, 7-5.

Curtis has reloaded since then and has escaped the long season with an unblemished mark of 23-0, which includes 9-1 and 4-2 wins over Riverside. And, as the No. 1 seed, the Lady Patriots have the opportunity to reverse the decision on their 2011 conqueror, Kinder, which they play tomorrow at 6 p.m. Kinder (20-6 and District 4-2A champion with a 10-0 record) is the No. 8 seed.

Riverside (23-8) enters the quarterfinals as the No. 4 seed and has a 4 p.m. clash with No. 12 Iota (20-6), a quarterfinalist last year. If the Lady Rebels and Curtis win, they will meet again at 11 a.m. on Saturday for the right to play for the 2A title.

Defending champion Evangel (25-5) is on the other end of the bracket with No. 3 Sterlington (25-2) and No. 6 Catholic of New Iberia (21-8), the 2011 3A champion. The Curtis-Riverside winner will likely face one this trio for the championship.

Class 1A – In 2011, Hannan was a team void of district competition because it was the only school which fielded a softball team. And what a team it was.

Like Cinderella, Hannan rose through tough competition, winning 23 of 33 games and knocking of the Nos. 5 and 1 seeds to claim the championship.

The Lady Hawks moved up a seed to No. 3 and return with much of the nucleus of that championship team. The spoils of their 21-7 record and high seeding is a quarterfinal round game against No. 22 Westminster (14-15) at 2 p.m.

Upsets on Hannan's side of the bracket may also be beneficial to its chances of repeating.

No. 10 Sacred Heart of Ville Platte (14-9) bounced No. 7 Cedar Creek, 6-5, and No. 15 Ouachita Christian (17-11) shocked No. 2 Hanson Memorial (17-4), 6-1, in regional round play. A Hannan win over Westminster at 2 p.m. tomorrow will put them in a semifinal round game against one of the two lower seeds.

On the top side of the 1A bracket is No. 1 Opelousas Catholic (23-3), whose only district loss was to False River (15-15), which made it to the quarterfinal round as a No. 21 seed. Last year, False River was the No. 1 seed, but lost to Hannan in the semis, 1-0.