The Parkway Lady Panthers are headed back to “the promised land.”
No. 10 Parkway earned a trip to Sulphur for next weekend’s FastPitch 56 on Friday night with a 10-3 victory over seventh-seeded Walker in the second round of the Class 5A softball playoffs.
It’s the Lady Panthers’ first trip to Sulphur since 2006, and only the fourth in school history. They’ll be looking to advance to the semifinals for the first time when they face (either District 1-5A rival Airline OR No. 2 St. Amant) on Friday.
“That’s been our dream all season,” Parkway coach Neil May said. “The first goal we wanted to do was win district. We accomplished that. And the second goal is the same goal that every high school team in Louisiana has, and that’s to make it to Sulphur. We’re just thankful.”
The two teams traded home runs early and appeared poised for a shootout.
Playing in front of her father’s family, who live in the Baton Rouge area, sophomore shortstop Alexis Rayborn laced a home run to left field in the third inning to give Parkway a 2-0 lead. Walker’s senior catcher, Taylor Fuchs, however, answered with a three-run blast in the bottom half of the inning to give the Lady Wildcats (21-9) the lead.
From that point on, though, it was Cheyenne Rogers’ game. The senior right-hander retired 13 of the final 15 batters she faced and gave up just one hit following Fuchs’ home run.
May said that Rogers has been a “phenomenal” asset for the Lady Panthers (21-8) in their run to the FastPitch 56.
“She doesn’t get rattled,” May said. “That’s happened before, the three-run homer. That’s happened before. She knows how to keep her emotions in check, and she just kept fighting.”
“She’s been great for us all year,” Rayborn said. “She came in really strong and she’s played the season so well.”
Rogers wasn’t just an asset in the circle, though. Her two-run double in the top of the fourth inning gave Parkway the lead the good, and the Lady Panthers scored six runs over the final two innings to turn a close game into a blowout.
Rayborn paced Parkway’s plate attack, going 2-for-4 with the solo home run and three runs scored in front of her family members.
“They really don’t get to come see me much,” she said. “Getting to come down here and the team playing so well, it’s just really exciting.”
Rogers and freshman catcher Haydn Parker had two hits apiece, while first baseman Danielle Cruickshank drove in two runs for the Lady Panthers, who pounded out 10 hits in the game and took advantage of seven walks.
Rayborn said there were no words to describe how happy the team was to return to Sulphur after losing in the first round of the playoffs for six straight years prior to this one.
“I’m just really excited because I didn’t have big expectations for us going into the season,” Rogers said. “I’m just happy that we brought it all together.”