A strong pitching performance from Byrd senior Sarah Long, along with a gift-giving attitude from visiting Ponchatoula, allowed the Lady Jackets to get past the Lady Wave 4-1 on Monday afternoon in the opening round of the LHSAA Class 5A state playoffs.
Playing in front of a near packed house at the Byrd softball complex, the Lady Jackets won their first playoff game since 2009 when they advanced to Sulphur. Byrd will play the winner of Tuesday’s East Ascension-Destrehan contest in the regional round.
“That first one is the toughest one, especially on the seniors, who were nervous because they hadn’t won a playoff game,” Byrd coach Mark Lambert said. “We hit the ball well and even some of our outs were good, productive outs.”
Long was stellar on the mound and at the plate where she had two hits and a walk in three at-bats. Morgan McInnis scored half of Byrd’s runs while pinch running for Long.
“I wasn’t ready for our season to be over, so I’m glad we’re moving forward,” Long said. “That was my first pitching win in a playoff game and the first time I’ve pitched all seven innings (in a playoff game).”
Long struck out 11, walked none and allowed six hits for the win, while benefitting from a strong defensive performance behind her. Senior centerfielder Shelby Spruiell said she knew her team would need to hit to win. Byrd (21-10) collected eight hits and had a half-dozen line drives picked off.
“It feels phenomenal, because we haven’t made it past the first round since my freshman year,” Spruiell said. “We’ve played East Ascension (5-0 loss) and Destrehan is who beat us in the playoffs last year, so we’re excited to play either team in the next round.”
All four Byrd runs scored on Ponchatoula (12-10) errors, although the Lady Jackets recorded several hits to get in a position to make the errors run-worthy.
Tia Timerding and Emily Daniel had back-to-back singles in the first and Timerding scored when Claire Hyde’s grounder was booted. Chandler Wiggins doubled to open Byrd’s second, moved over on Long’s single and scored on a second Lady Wave error at short. Long walked to start Byrd’s fourth inning and Spruiell ripped a single to left that was mishandled by the Ponchatoula fielder and McInnis made it 3-0 Byrd.
The Lady Jackets got their final run in the fifth when Hyde led off with a double and scored when the Lady Wave second baseman dropped a pop-up.
Ponchatoula finally got on the board in the top of the seventh when Hannah Gomez singled and scored on a single to right by Taylor Perilloux. But Long ended the threat when she struck out Paige Fernandez to end the game.