Seven high school softball teams from the Greater New Orleans area have cleared the first two hurdles blocking their paths to state championships in the â€œFast Pitch 56 Tournament,â€ at Sulphurâ€™s Frasch Park this weekend.
Three of the quarterfinalists are familiar combatants, having faced each other twice as members of District 9-2A. The third time may turn out to be a charm for either champion Riverside Academy, runner-up John Curtis or third place finisher St. Charles Catholic, which was a finalist in 2010.
Two other area teams in the same district â€“ 9-4A â€“ also made the field. Champion Cabrini and runner-up Ursuline Academy are on opposite ends of the Class 4A bracket and scheduled to face two of the top teams in that class on Friday.
Hahnville is the areaâ€™s lone Class 5A competitor and Archbishop Hannan is among the quarterfinalists in Class 1A.
The quarterfinal rounds of the â€œFast Pitch 56 Tournamentâ€ begin Friday on all five of Frasch Softball Complexâ€™s 14 diamonds at noon. The semifinal and championship rounds are scheduled for Saturday.
In head-to-head match-ups, Riverside defeated St. Charles Catholic, 3-2 and 3-1, but split with Curtis, winning the first game, 5-2, then losing to the Lady Patriots, 5-0. Curtis and St. Charles split their two games, Curtis taking the first game, 5-4 then the Lady Comets prevailing at home, 6-3. These three teams have amassed 71 wins against just 13 defeats.
District 9-4A titlist Cabrini and runner-up Ursuline split their two league encounters; Cabrini winning a 17-12 slugfest the first time then Ursuline calming the Crescentsâ€™ bats to win, 3-0, in the rematch. Cabrini won the title by virtue of Ursulineâ€™s early district loss to Pearl River. The only way the two could meet again if they make it to the finals.
But winning three games in two days will be a tall order for all the local schools.
The quarterfinal round match-ups:
Class 5A: No. 4 Hahnville (29-3) vs. No. 5 St. Thomas More (20-5), Friday noon on Field 16.
These two teams met for the 2010 state championship, which STM claimed via an exciting 4-3, victory. Hahnville enters the game with playoff victories over Terrebonne, 10-0, and Slidell, 1-0, while the Lady Cougars earned their spot in the quarterfinals by defeating Captain Shreve, 10-0, and Live Oak, 7-5. These two met on Feb. 26 in the St. Thomas More Tournament in a game won by the Lady Cougars, 5-2, which snapped Hahnvilleâ€™s four-game win streak. The Lady Tigers went on to win 20 of their next 21 games and recorded 17 wins by shutout.
|Cabrini hopes to be a tough out in Class 4A
(Photo: Ron Brocato).
Class 4A: No. 6 Cabrini (21-6) vs. No. 3 Haughton (24-5), Friday noon on Field 13.
Cabrini, which made it as far as the regional round in 2010, has moved a step further this year thanks to a combination of steady pitching, consistent hitting and a solid defense. In their bi-district round 4-0 win over Cecilia, sophomore right-hander Jackie Johnson pitched a no-hitter. She followed that by blanking Neville, 1-0, to gain a berth in the tournament.
In Haughton, the Crescents face a team that swept a five-team district that had just one other member with a winning record. But the Lady Bucs are 10-6 against opponents with winning records, including 2010 Class 2A champion, Evangel, 3-0.
Class 4A: No. 8 Ursuline (20-12) vs. No. 1 Sam Houston (21-5), Friday 6 p.m., Field 13.
Ursuline is making its debut in the state tournament with a team that is very competitive. The Lions avenged an earlier defeat to Pearl River, which cost them a chance to force a district championship playoff game with Cabrini, by handing Pearl River a stunning 11-1 spanking in the bi-district round, then fought off a late rally by Breaux Bridge to win that regional game, 4-3.
Known for their defense and hard-hitting, the Lions have won seven games by the 10-run rule. While Ursuline is making the trip to Sulphur for the first time, Sam Houston is no stranger to the landscape. As a No. 3 seed last year, the Lady Broncs made it to the finals where they lost a heart-breaking 3-2 decision to Vandebilt Catholic. Most of those players are back and geared to take the final step.
Class 2A: No. 7 St. Charles Catholic (22-5) vs. No. 2 John Curtis (20-6), Friday 2 p.m., Field 14.
This rubber match between the two will put the victor a step away from a title game. And the Lady Patriots enter the game remembering the 13-2 beating they took in their meeting with SCC in last yearâ€™s regional round. St. Charles had a powerful team that made it to the finals before losing to Evangel.
This season, the Lady Patriots are on a five-game win streak since their district game against Riverside, 3-1, on April 5. Theyâ€™ve had few problems n the playoffs, eliminating Mangham, 15-0, and Sterlington, 8-0. Curtis has also won its last five games after losing a non-district game against Ursuline Academy on April 6. The Lady Pats have beaten Jonesboro-Hodge, 15-0, and Sacred Heart of Ville Platte, 7-2, to get to the quarterfinals.
Class 2A: No. 8 Mamou (25-8) vs. No. 1 Riverside Academy (29-2), Friday, 4 p.m., Field 14.
Riverside lost for the first time five games into the season on Feb. 26 to Catholic of New Iberia, 2-1, then did not taste defeat through the next 21 games until John Curtis ended the Lady Rebelsâ€™ run. They brushed aside Episcopal of Baton Rouge, 15-0, in the first playoff round, but had to scrap to get past a stubborn No. 16 seed South Beauregard, 8-7.
In Mamou, they face a team that knows something about winning under pressure as well. The Green Demons had to get past Pine Prairie in a playoff game to claim the No. 2 position in District 5-2A behind champion Kinder, with whom they split their two meetings. Mamou defeated Fisher, 13-0, and handed Piane Prairie a second setback, 2-1, in the regional playoff round.
Class 1A No. 4 Archbishop Hannan (20-10) vs. No. 5 Catholic-Pointe Coupee (21-11), Friday, 2 p.m., Field 17.
For the second straight season, Hannan made the playoffs as the only team in District 6-1A. Without any district trials, the Lady Hawks had to find opponents elsewhere, which turned out to benefit them. The competition helped them to improve and gain enough power points to rate as a high seed. Last season Hannan lost in the quarterfinals to Oberlin. This year a victory on Friday would put the Lady Hawks in the semis again against the No. 1 seed False River, to whom they lost by a scant 1-0 score on March 19.
Hannan enters the quarterfinals via routs over White Castle, 11-0, and Haynesville, 10-0, in earlier playoff games. Catholic, which was runner-up to False River in District 5-1A, has 10 victories over teams with winning records. The Lady Hornets have yet to be tested in the playoffs, having beaten Christian Life, 16-0, and Delcambre, 6-0.
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