Except for attending Grace Community Methodist Church and then dining at home with her family, Byrd senior Autumn Poole spent her most of her Easter preparing for Monday’s LHSAA Class 5A playoff opener with Ponchatoula at 4:30 p.m. at the Lady Jackets’ softball complex.
Her prep started immediately after lunch when she and some cousins took on her brother, and some other cousins in a 3-on-3 whiffle ball contest.
“My team won, of course, but softball isn’t the only thing in my life,” said a chuckling Poole, who hopes to attend LSU and earn an architecture degree after graduation. “I hit three home runs and I struck out my brother several times.”
After the whiffle triumph, Poole reported to Byrd to go through more than two hours of workouts under the watchful eye of coach Mark Lambert, who practiced his team on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“All of them were here on time,” Lambert pronounced with pride.
The Lady Jackets are playing the only playoff game in Shreveport or Bossier City on Monday, while Loyola moved up their playoff game at St. Thomas More from Tuesday to Monday at 4 p.m. due to potential inclement weather.
Champions of District 1-5A, Byrd (20-10) will host a Ponchatoula (12-9) team that played a limited number of games.
“They had a tournament rained out and some other rainouts,” Lambert said. “I know they have three or four very good players and a better than average pitcher. It should make for a good matchup.”
The Lady Jackets counter with a solid pitcher in senior Sarah Long, who didn’t allow an earned run in district play. She has 86 strikeouts in 118 innings and boasts a 1.77 ERA.
“Sarah has shutdown ability and we’re expecting a big game out of her,” Lambert said.
Shelby Spruiell leads Byrd in hitting with a .393 mark, while Emily Daniel is batting .346 and Tara Schuler is at .330.
“We have a scouting report so we know what to expect and we’ve been hitting live off our pitchers this week,” Spruiell said. “We have been trying to get ready for anything.”
The Lady Jackets have hit 15 home runs with junior Tia Timerding contributing six, along with a team-high 27 RBIs, while sophomore Claire Hyde has added four homers.
“Hitting is one of the biggest keys for us because our defense and pitching has been solid,” Lambert said. “If we hit like we are capable, we should be alright. Shelby, Tia, Tara — all of our kids can hit.”
In his first year at Byrd after taking Captain Shreve to several playoff appearances, prior to his stint at Centenary, Lambert tinkered with his lineup early in the season. Timerding was moved from third to second and Schuler was moved to shortstop, putting Spruiell in center after spending her first three seasons in purple and gold at short.
“Shelby has taken away several gap shots for us this year,” Lambert said. “Our lineup is staying put the way it is. We’ve won six or seven straight with it this way.”
Poole, meanwhile, has become a solid right fielder, making several diving catches that others might not get to. Although she may continue defeating her 21-year-old brother in whiffle ball for years to come, she knows her softball career will come to an end with Byrd’s next loss.
“It makes me nervous thinking about that — in fact I’m kinda freaking out,” Poole said. “But we’ll all just leave it all out there on the field on Monday. We don’t want to have any regrets about what we could have done.”