Seven seniors from Loyola took a historic night at St. Vincent’s Field and made it their own on Monday night in the opening round of the LHSAA Class 3A state playoffs.
Perhaps it was the inspirational national anthem sung by Julia Vanchiere, sister of Loyola second baseman Caroline Vanchiere. Or maybe it was the first pitch, ably launched by 9-year-old brain cancer patient John David Scribner, brother of Lady Flyer outfielder Kathryn Scrivener.
Whatever the motivation, the magnificent seven hit and pitched their way to a 9-2 win over St. Mary’s Academy of New Orleans allowing coach Mike Spence’s club to advance to a second-round meeting with third-seeded Kaplan, a 10-0 win over West Feliciana, later this week. It was the first time in the field’s 10-year existence that Loyola (19-9) had entertained a home playoff game. The previous home playoff game came at Princess Park, near downtown Shreveport, in 2003.
“The girls were nervous before the game and I told them if they were at home, it wouldn’t be any fun, so they needed to just play,” Spence said. “They got over it pretty quick, and played the game by the numbers. I didn’t have to do a whole lot of coaching.”
Senior pitcher Alex Cunningham was sterling on the mound, allowing just a pair of hits while striking out 13 to move to 14-6 on the season.
“Basically all of my pitches were working today – it was just a really good day,” Cunningham said. “I had all the corners of the plate … all my breaking pitches. It was a pretty emotional day. It’s been a good run.”
Cunningham was supported by fellow seniors Gabby Cox, Sean Stott, Meagan Tinsley, Martha Williams and Maddie Russo with their performances at the plate and in the field. The Flyers also got some offensive punch from Vanchiere, a sophomore who went 2-for-2, and freshman Meredith Waltman, who was also 2-for-2 with three RBIs.
The Cougars (17-3) seemed to enjoy themselves after getting fed by the Loyola faithful. They doused coach Dominique Delone with ice despite the loss.
“It took us about five hours to get here, but it seemed longer with 16 girls,” Delone chuckled. “We just have a lot of middle school kids. My pitcher and shortstop are seventh graders. It’s tough when we have to play a team with a lot of high school players.”
Singles by Vanchiere and Meagan Tinsley to open the game led to a 2-0 Loyola lead after a sacrifice by Russo. The Flyers added two more in the third when Cunningham reached on an error, Russo put down a bunt single and Waltman plated both with a rip down the first base line. St. Mary’s Tiffany Doss singled in the fourth and scored when the Loyola infield tossed the ball around.
Vanchiere and Tinsley scored in the fourth to put Loyola in front 6-1, then Waltman was plated in the fifth by a Tinsley single. Russo scored on a Cox triple in the sixth and Cox scored on a Waltman sacrifice.
Callie Diaz took the loss on the mound for the Cougars.