For many softball coaches around the Acadiana area, this has been the season to forget, filled with more rain delays than anyone can recollect.
Upon Thursday’s release of the state playoff brackets, now the challenge of creating memories their teams will want to remember for a lifetime begins.
Of the 22 area teams learning their postseason roads, some of them are just ecstatic to be involved, others are OK with the seeds but not thrilled with the bracket and some of the lower seeds are regretting the new LHSAA rule that prevents them from potentially earning a second-round home game.
All of them, however, just wish rain wasn’t leading every conversation.
“It’s been such a tough season,” said coach Andria Waguespack of defending 4A state champion St. Thomas More. “It’s hard when you hardly ever get any practice time on your field.”
The Teurlings Catholic Lady Rebels earned the highest local seed at No. 2 in Class 4A, while Class 3A is where the rest of the area’s single-digit seeds were – Kaplan at No. 3, North Vermilion at No. 5, Iota at No. 6 and Notre Dame at No. 9.
And don’t forget about Class C Northside Christian of Crowley, which may end up being the area’s best chance at extending the long history of state championship-level softball in this area.
It’s quite possible that Acadiana High coach Kevin Smith and his Lady Rams had the biggest smiles of any team around the state when the LHSAA brackets were unveiled Thursday.
The Lady Rams hadn’t made the playoffs in 20 years. That drought ended when Acadiana got a No. 27 seed and earned the right to meet No. 6 East Ascension at 5:30 Tuesday.
“It’s official,” Smith laughed. “I saw it in print.
“The kids deserve it. They’ve worked very hard this year to get to this point.”
Smith’s Lady Rams also did a nice job selecting a team motto to inspire them this season.
Indeed, Acadiana High softball became the poster child for the Julie Andrews claim that “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”
A little secret that many fans may not know, STM coach Andria Waguespack was the star player on that last Lady Ram postseason squad in 1995.
Back to the present, if Smith’s squad is going to enjoy success while there, it’s going to require a little revenge after losing 7-0 to East Ascension in the Live Oak Tournament on March 27.
“When I gave them the news today, I could just see the energy it gave them,” Smith said. “It was what they needed to see.
“They’re not worried about the fact that it’s East Ascension. They’re excited and ready to go play.”
The Class 4A bracket was a little more interesting than some would have liked.
Of all the potential second-round matchups, you might have guessed it. If No. 2 Teurlings and No. 18 St. Thomas More both win, the two longtime rivals will square off again for the third time this season at Teurlings.
The Lady Cougars surprised many by sweeping the pre-district favorite Lady Rebels during District 5-4A play. STM, though, was swept by No. 17 Cecilia and all there ended up in a three-way tie for first.
“I don’t really know what to think about it,” Teurlings coach Lauren Delahoussaye said. “It’s not really what we would have wanted, but we don’t have any control over that. We just have to approach every game looking to play our best game.
“It’s the playoffs, so you to approach it differently. Every game could be your last.”
It’s one of the down sides to the power-ranking system. Years ago, like when Waguespack was a Barras playing at Acadiana High, the playoff brackets were predetermined. That system often matched two elite programs in the second round, but it did protect district rivals from meeting early in the postseason.
Of course, Waguespack doesn’t even want to hear such talk these days. The bracket she saw had her No. 18 Lady Cougars traveling to No. 15 Belle Chasse in the bi-district round.
At least not yet, Teurlings isn’t even part of her mindset.
“If we don’t win our first-round game, it won’t even matter,” Waguespack said. “Right now, we’re putting together a gameplan for Belle Chasse. If we win that game, then we’ll worry about putting together a gameplan for Teurlings.
“Belle Chasse is very similar to us. They’ve got some young kids in their lineup and then they have some very dangerous sticks. It should be a good matchup.”
Meanwhile, Cecilia’s No. 17 Lady Bulldogs, who are used to top-notch competition being in the same district at STM and Teurlings, is looking at what coach Cody Champagne is hoping is a lot of traveling over the next week or so.
Cecilia will be at No. 16 Lutcher in the first round. Unlike in previous years, though, if the Lady Bulldogs win, they will again have to travel to No. 1 North DeSoto. In the past, a No. 17 seed would get to host a No. 1 seed if it upset No. 16 in the opener.
“I really think that 4A is wide open this year,” Champagne said. “I think there are a lot of 4A teams just like us. We just have to step up and hit the ball. A lot of my kids have been playing together since they were 10 years old. It’s time for them to step up.”
Indeed, all the rainouts have quite possibly skewed the playoff brackets with some teams not getting to make up critical games against elite teams.
That was certainly the case in District 4-4A where No. 14 Beau Chene and No. 12 Rayne didn’t even get a chance to decide that league’s title due to the rain.
When it comes to softball in the Acadiana area, the numbers, as well as most of the higher seeds, come in Class 3A.
Just like the District 6-3A race itself, this group will be interesting to follow. The good news is that unlike STM and Teurlings, our area 3A powers are mostly in separate brackets.
Topping the list is the No. 3-seeded Kaplan Lady Pirates, who will be facing some unfamiliar foes in Thomas Jefferson and then the Jena-Pine Prairie winner.
“I feel like we’ve played quality opponents to get us ready for the playoffs,” Kaplan coach Shay Herpin said. “It’s been tough with all the rain, but we’ve tried to look at it in a positive way. It’s kind of kept the players excited, always waiting for that chance to play again. It’s kept them interested and given us a chance to work on some things.”
Ashley Ray, meanwhile, of No. 9 Notre Dame is much more frustrated. Her Lady Pios didn’t get to make up games against STM, Sam Houston and Teurlings.
“That really hurt us,” Ray said. “We only got 19 games in. We lost four games against pretty good teams. It’s just crazy how it’s been this year, but it’s out of our control.”
Through it all, Ray said her Lady Pios have been able to establish enough in the circle for a big playoff run, led by freshman Marcella and Melise Gossen .
“The two freshmen really stepped up. We had some ups and downs like we did everywhere else, but they really did well.”
The No. 5 North Vermilion Lady Patriots open against No. 28 Church Point and should be more than battle-tested after splitting with Kaplan and Notre Dame.
As crazy as the 5-4A and 6-3A races were, it’s possible that the wackiest softball league battle this season was in District 5-2A.
Three programs used to winning in softball – Catholic High of New Iberia, Delcambre and Opelousas Catholic – endured a roller coaster race throughout the rain-delayed district schedule.
Delcambre got off to a 4-0 start, then Catholic High made a push and was seemingly in good position, but finally it was OC sweeping Delcambre at the wire to win it.
Now it’s a matter of seeing how this trio does in the postseason.
Area Softball Playoff Schedule
•27-Acadiana (13-12) at 6-East Ascension (20-7), 5:30 p.m., Tuesday
••17-Cecilia (19-9) at 16-Lutcher (11-12)
•21-Benton (12-12) at 12-Rayne (18-6), 4 p.m., Tuesday
•19-Ellender (13-15) at 14-Beau Chene (19-9)
•18-St. Thomas More (14-10) at 15-Belle Chasse (18-11)
•31-Pearl River (8-12) at 2-Teurlings (22-7), 4 p.m., Tuesday
•24-McGehee (10-8) at 9-Notre Dame (14-5)
•28-Church Point (10-13) at 5-North Vermilion (22-5), 4 p.m., Monday
•30-Thomas Jefferson (12-11) at 3-Kaplan (20-4), 4 p.m., Monday
•22-Port Barre (15-9) at 11-Westlake (13-7), 4:30 p.m., Tuesday
•27-DeLaSalle (8-9) at 6-Iota (20-5), 5 p.m., Tuesday
•17-Catholic-NI (15-9) at 16-Pickering (12-7), 5 p.m., Tuesday
•25-Opelousas Catholic (12-15) at 8-Pope John Paul II (18-10), 4 p.m., Tuesday
•21-French Settlement (11-13) at 12-Delcambre (14-7), 5 p.m., Monday
•26-Westminster (11-11) at 7-Doyle (19-8), 6 p.m., Tuesday
•24-Oberlin (7-12) at 9-Vermilion Catholic (11-6), 4:30 p.m., Tuesday
•21-Gueydan (10-12) at 12-South Cameron (13-6)
•20-Lafayette Christian (11-10) at 13-False River (8-11), 4:30 p.m., Monday
•26-Highland Baptist (8-16) at 7-Sacred Heart-VP (13-8), 4:30 p.m., Monday
•23-Northwood-Lena (12-14) at 10-St. Edmund (12-7), 4 p.m., Monday
•14-Summerfield (5-10) at 3-Northside Christian (19-2)