Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013



LAPLACE – Both on the softball field and off, there’s a special feeling around Riverside these days.

“A bunch of people have come up to be and told me they’ve had dreams about Sulphur,” said Rebels senior Destin Vicknair. “Parents are coming up to me and saying that they can feel it, that this is the year.”

For two St. John Parish teams in Riverside and St. Charles Catholic, it’s time to embark what has become an annual tradition for the two softball powers: a trip to Sulphur for the state softball tournament.

And with that, a run at those state championship rings.

“That would mean everything,” said Riverside senior Katie Bailey. “Most of us have been playing together since we were nine and 10. (Winning state) has always been our goal. To do it in our senior year would be something to remember.”

The Rebels (26-7) are certainly equipped to do it – and perhaps even twice as prepared to. Riverside boasts an experienced team led by a group of seniors who have seen Sulphur plenty – Vicknair, Bailey, Taylor Terrio, Megan Stein and Kori Bourgeois have been part of the core of a team that has been to two state semifinals and a quarterfinal in each of the past three years. Bourgeois, who has started at third since her freshman season, has played in spot duty this year, grinding through a painful shoulder injury. Vicknair, Bailey and Terrio have started since the 8th grade, while Stein earned her spot as a freshman.

“This is definitely a special group,” said Hebert. “These girls have been part of this program for a long time, pushing to get it to the next level. Each year, we’ve been closer and closer. Hopefully, this is the year we finish it off.”

Vicknair, the team’s starting pitcher, said that she remembers all of her starts at Sulphur – and even some games before that.

“I had a cousin who played in Sulphur when she was a senior. When they lost, I saw how much it hurt,” she said.

In Sulphur, many of these Rebels have faced pitchers the caliber of Curtis’ Katie Brignac, who returns for the top-seeded Patriots this year, and Evangel’s Emily Rousseau, who moved onto the University of Georgia after her senior season.

This year, Riverside has faced top-flight pitchers – it’s been the rule, not the exception. RA has played 18 games against teams that will play in Sulphur this weekend. A whopping eight of those came against the top two seeds in Class 5A (Hahnville and St. Amant), the top seed in Class 4A (Vandebilt Catholic), the top seed in 3A (Brusly) and the top seed in 2A (Curtis).

 “When I saw the schedule, I was a little scared honestly,” said Vicknair. “But we went 4-0 at the Lutcher tournament for the first time ever. We beat Neville and Teurlings in close games there. That gave us a lot of confidence and I think we gained momentum from that point.”

Added Bailey, “Coach gave us a tough schedule. She did a good job getting us a lot of tough competition … We’re prepared for this.”

Hebert said that she wanted to her team to see as many reps against the state’s top pitchers as possible.

“I was confident with the girls we had … we might have been on the winning side a little more than I’d have expected (after putting together the schedule),” said Hebert. “But it shows the maturity of these girls.”

Riverside will face DeQuincy at 6 p.m. Friday in the 2A quarterfinals. It will be a rematch of last season’s regional round game between the teams, a 7-3 Rebels home victory.

St. Charles Catholic, meanwhile, extended one of the most impressive runs in prep athletics when it defeated Patterson to advance to the Class 3A quarterfinals: the Comets will make a trip to Sulphur for the ninth consecutive season.  SCC kicks off its tournament action against Buckeye at noon Friday.

The Comets (21-6) head in with plenty of positive momentum. SCC has won four straight games, allowing just a single run over that stretch. Pitcher Chelsea Loupe has recorded three shutouts in that span to help push the Comets to another 20-win season.

St. Charles coach Ty Monica always says that the team that puts together the best four days of practice on tournament week is the one likely to emerge victorious. He said Monday that his Comets are off to a good start in that regard.

“We had a really good day today,” said Monica. “I was happy to see how these girls are responding.”

As the nine-year streak would indicate, this is an experienced senior class. The Comets boast seven seniors, all of whom have never missed a season of Sulphur play.

That said, they take nothing for granted.

“It’s very exciting,” said Comet senior Karli Terrio. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve been to that second day once. I really want to get to that Saturday again.”

The Comets hit their roughest patch of the season in late March, falling three times over a five game span: a 3-2 loss to Parkview Baptist, a 6-0 loss to Brusly and a 13-0 loss to Riverside.

It served as a wakeup call. Monica increased his expectations in practice, and he said the players have bought in.

Terrio echoed that thought.

“We’ve been working extremely hard, and it’s helping us get into the kind of shape we need to be in,” said Terrio. “If we’re better conditioned, we’re able to make those good throws and come up with those big plays we need to late in games.”

SCC lost to Brusly, 3A’s top seed, twice this season But in one of those games, the Comets brought a 1-0 lead into the final inning at Brusly before the Panthers rallied for a victory.

Though the loss stung, it served notice that this Comets team isn’t likely to be intimidated by any of the teams in the field.

They know what to expect in Sulphur.

“You always feel that nervousness when you walk out there,” said SCC senior Jessica Mire. “But it’s a good kind of nervousness … you feel the adrenaline kick in and you get excited.”

Said senior pitcher Chelsea Loupe, “No feeling compares to it. I can’t really pinpoint how to describe how it feels … but it’s something you just have to experience.

“In my freshman year, it was the season we went to the state championship game. That was a great way to start off.”

And getting back to that game would be an even greater end to a fine prep career.

“Definitely,” said Loupe. “That would be a great way to finish.”