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River Parishes stars help lead East to sweep

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / June 10, 1998

PORT BARRE – April Benn, Brandi Neal, Melissa Martin and Kori Guillory – the River Parishes representatives at the Louisiana High School Coaches Association softball doubleheader – had a goal to have fun, meet new people and win when they made the trip to Port Barre High School Saturday.

Mission accomplished.

Each of the four had a hand as the East squad swept the doubleheader from the West, 10-0 and 5-0. The victories made it three straight for the East,which has won 10 of the 13 games played since 1992.

“You can’t tame the beast from the East,” St. Charles Catholic head coachTeri Hruska, who served as the assistant coach for the East, said of the team’s motto. “The players did a great job. I felt honored to be here. It isthe dream of every coach to have this much talent. I hope they take goodmemories with them.”One of the things the players said they will take with them is the friendships they met with their teammates, many of whom they met for the first time at practice on Friday.

“It was so hard to say goodbye,” Guillory, who played for St. CharlesCatholic said. “We bonded. We were so close.”Neal, from Lutcher, led the East in hitting, going 4-for-5 and scoring four runs in the two games. Each of Neal’s hits came on infield singles.”I am glad I had the bunt,” Neal laughed. “I expected it to be this awesome,I just didn’t expect us to be as close. I really had fun this week. I neverhad this many awesome people in one spot.”Lutcher’s Benn went 1-for-2 and came up with a clutch defensive play in each game. Guillory reached on an error, scored a run and knocked in a runwhile Riverside’s Martin went 2-for-5 with a home run.

“I got everything I wanted to out of it,” Martin said the doubleheader. “Iwanted to meet new people, win and have fun.”Martin got the East started in the bottom of the first after Benn had fielded Sulphur’s Jenny Lee’s chopper in front of the plate and made a strong throw to get her at first top open the top of the inning. With twoouts in the East half of the frame, Martin lined a shot over the head of leftfielder Heather Lavergne, hustling around the damp bases for an inside-the-park home run.

Benn followed with an infield single but West starter Michelle Hitt from Vandebilt Catholic got West Monroe’s Stephanie Shields to fly out to end the inning. Hitt would then hold the East squad in check over the next twoinnings, retiring six of the final seven batters she faced.

St. Amant’s Bonnie Miles opened the fourth inning with a double into theright-center field gap against reliever Brandy Stelly from Beau Chene.

Neal then grounded to shortstop Leah Viator and reached as Viator’s throw went past first. St. Amant’s Alana Addison followed with a double to leftto score Miles and Neal and give the East a 3-0 lead.

After Addison went to third on a wild pitch, Guillory brought her in by reaching on an error by Viator. Catholic-Pointe Coupee’s Rachelle Pourciaufollowed with a single and one out later, Redemptorist’s Leeann Guedry moved them over with a grounder back to the mound. West Ouachita’sJennifer Lofton then scored Guillory and Pourciau with a single to right, making the score 6-0.

The East added four runs in the fifth as Miles led off with a single and went to third on an infield single by Neal. Two outs later, Pourciau walkedand Denham Spring’s Jana Strickland singled to left to score Miles. Guedrythen cleared the bases with a single to right, giving the East a 10-0 lead.

Lofton and East starter Chrissa Hughes from Walker combined to hold the West in check. Hughes pitched the first three innings before coming backfor the final two innings, allowing just a single to Port Barre’s Tammy Taylor in the third, and striking out five. Lofton also allowed just one hit,a single by Pine Prairie’s Lelia Johnson in the fourth, while striking out two.

Lofton started the second game, allowing a single to Pine Prairie’s Kristin Whatley in the first and a walk by Stelly in the third while striking out three. Hughes came in the fourth and got into trouble as Sulphur’s KellieDowden and Brusly’s Lindsey Gremillion reached on errors with one out.

But as Morgan City’s Jamie Pennison was drawing a walk, Benn fired down to first to pick off Gremillion.

After walking Pennison, Hughes got Taylor to line softly to second to end the inning. Hughes then retired the side in order in the fifth before givingaway to Block’s Wendi Scott who retired all three batters she faced in the sixth.

Lofton came back in the seventh and after a fine running catch by second baseman Pineville’s Kisha James, gave up a single to Sacred Heart’s Sadie McCauley before retiring the final two batters to end the game.

While the East pitchers were blanking the West squad, Neal gave them all the runs they would need in the first against Stelly. Neal led off the gameby beating out a bunt, went to third on a sacrifice by Guedry and scored on a ground out to third by Miles.

With one out in the third, Neal again beat out a bunt, went to second on a wild pitch by Stelly, to third on a single by Guedry and scored on another wild pitch. Miles then brought in Guedry with her second ground out tothird, giving the East a 3-0 lead.

James led off the fifth with a single against Hitt who had come in to pitch in the top of the fourth. After advancing to second on Hughes’ single,James, stole third and scored as catcher Lindsey Gremillion’s throw went into left field.

The East would score its final run against reliever Kristie Crochet from Brusly in the sixth as Pineville’s Aleshia Perry reached on an infield hit, stole second, moved to third on Scott’s grounder and scored on James’ single to right.

Hughes was named the East’s most valuable player after combining to throw seven shut out innings in the doubleheader, allowing one hit while striking out seven and walking one. Lofton was not far behind, shutting outthe West for six innings while giving up three hits, striking out six and walking one.

Hitt received MVP honors for the West after pitching five combined innings, giving up two runs and five hits while striking out four and walking one in the doubleheader.

The teams split last year with the East last sweeping the West in 1996, 5-3 and 7-3.

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