Menard returns to Sulphur with one goal in mind.
After last season’s 5-4 defeat to Oak Grove in the Class 2A final, the Lady Eagles once again are in the LHSAA FastPitch 56 — having returned nearly every starter from last season’s team.
First-year coach Allison Frye picked up where her predecessor — current LSU of Alexandria coach Erica Harwell — left off, with a talented team of timely hitters and quick defensive players.
“We’ve just been doing the same things we’ve been doing all year, which is trying to keep them calm and composed,” Frye said. “They went last year, so I think we’re a little more prepared and seem to be having fun.”
Senior pitcher/first baseman Kayla Busby is the Lady Eagles’ leader and she has been dominant from the circle and the plate this season.
In the first round against Vinton, Busby tossed a shutout, while striking out 10 batters and driving in four runs in the contest. The senior is ready to deliver Menard its first title since 2001, and the third in program history.
“Coming back from a big loss last year, we’ve really worked hard and gave 110 percent at practice every day and every game trying to get there,” Busby said. “Everybody on the team is reaching for the same goal. They all want to win state and to go big. We’ve all been less nervous and more excited to get there.”
Busby is one of three seniors who Menard has to set as examples and role models.
“I have three seniors who have contributed a lot to this team and this program in building it up and getting it back to where it needs to be,” Frye said. “It would be really neat for the three of them to go out with something special, considering what they’ve brought to the program.”
Helping her out on offense and defense is sophomore third baseman Maddie Smith, who is a great contact hitter and fielder.
“Maddie’s always been known as a bunter and a short-game kid, and she’s done great so far with that,” Frye said. “She’s gained a lot of confidence swinging the bat this year that it’s made her versatile as a hitter. When a slapper becomes versatile, I think that’s when her game improves and that’s what she’s done this year.”
While manning the hot corner, Smith’s bat has also been hot all season, batting .625 with an on-base percentage of .684. In the Eagles’ second-round game against Delcambre, she went 3-for-4 from the plate.
“I think we’ve improved more and been focused,” Smith said. “I think from last year, we’ve seen how it was down there and I think we were getting our jitters out. Now, we’re getting our focus and getting ready to play.”
Menard breezed through the first two rounds — not allowing a run in either contest — but will have tougher opponents on Friday and Saturday with the top four teams in Class 2A still in the bracket.
The Lady Eagles’ road to the championship will be a tough one with a matchup with fourth-seeded Archbishop Hannan at 2 p.m. Friday and a potential semifinal rematch with Calvary Baptist Saturday to just reach the title game.
With all of the barriers in the way, Frye believes that as long as her team is focused, it can survive and accomplish its goals.
“It’s high school softball and it’s an hour and 20 minutes with teenage girls, anything can happen,” Frye said. “I think it’s going to be the team that’s more focused and ready to play on that given day.”