Local squads kicking off season this week
Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE—After a run that saw Riverside reach two consecutive state semifinals before finishing as state runner-up in 2013, the Rebels will have a different look this season.
Five core players from the team’s impressive run graduated last summer as Riverside coach Kristy Hebert now oversees a retooled roster.
“It’s certainly a different feeling. Those girls were here with me for a long time,” said Hebert. “But as a coach, I’ve got to put that aside and be concerned with the team we have here and now. And this is a group that’s working extremely hard. I’m excited about the season.”
Among those graduates was pitcher Destin Vicknair, a three-time L’Observateur St. John Parish MVP. Vicknair was the team’s most dangerous power hitter as well as a dominating force on the mound.
The cupboard isn’t bare, however. Riverside will bring back a strong infield: among returning starters are catcher Toni Hebert, first baseman Hailey Tassin and infielders Erica Delaneuville and Madison Watson, who will each spend time at shortstop and third base. In the outfield, Caitlin Roussel will shift from right field to center.
On the mound, coach Hebert is evaluating a number of pitching options: Cheyenne Triche, Maegan Hymel, Watson and Toni Hebert are all potential starters, said Kristy Hebert.
Triche is slated to get the first starting opportunity today as Riverside hosts Mount Carmel. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
“She was hurt last year, so she doesn’t have a lot of even J.V. experience,” said Kristy Hebert. “We like her and she’ll get the ball first. For her or any of our pitchers, the biggest thing is to not walk a ton of batters. Give the defense a chance to make plays.”
The coach believes she has a highly motivated team on her hands.
“They’ve been hearing a lot of negative things, that we’ve lost too much from last year’s team,” she said. “They’re taking it as a challenge. They really want to get back to Sulphur and keep that run going.”
St. Charles Catholic is in the midst of one of the state’s most remarkable runs, having reached the state softball tournament in Sulphur in nine consecutive seasons.
The challenge for coach Ty Monica and his team will be extending that streak with a very young group this season.
“We’ll start two, maybe three seniors, and they’ll be surrounded by five sophomores,” said Monica.
The team’s top three returnees are seniors Emily Triche and Jessica Mire and sophomore Destiny Wesley.
“This is Emily’s fourth year starting and Jessica’s third. They’ve been through it. Those two are stepping up as leaders in a big way,” said Monica. “Destiny’s young, but she’s in her third year as a starter as well. She’s putting her two cents in and leading, which is great to see. On and off the field they’re taking that leadership role big time, and it’s fun to see and be a part of.”
SCC must also replace its starting pitcher with the graduation of Chelsea Loupe. Monica said the competition to start is still ongoing, and that there may well be more than one starter, not an unfamiliar look for SCC: the Comets have split starting duties before under Monica, notably in the Comets’ state championship 2008 season when Courtney Western and Ashley Trosclair shared duties.
“We’ll let them compete and may the best girl win, but hopefully we’ll have more than one,” said Monica.
The Comets were slated to begin play Tuesday at Covington (after press time). This Thursday, SCC will host its annual softball tournament. The Comets will play three games: against Haynes Thursday, then against Hannan and St. James on Saturday.
East St. John coach Stasha Thomas sees good things ahead for her Ladycats team, despite its heavy reliance on youth: ESJ will roster 10 freshmen this season.
“They can really play,” said Thomas. “I think this is going to be a special group. They know the game.”
The two players she expects to lead the way this season, however, are upperclassmen Ciera Eugene, a senior, and Angelliot Thomas, a junior.
Eugene can play multiple infield and outfield positions, while Thomas will start in center field.
“They’re definitely vocal leaders both on and off the field,” said Thomas. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve got in store for us.”
Last season the Wildcats won nine games. Thomas said she believes the team can certainly exceed that mark.
“Our talent level has improved,” said Thomas. “These girls really work hard as well.”
East St. John was set to face West St. John Thursday, but that game is likely to be postponed due to the Rams’ girls basketball team advancing to the state quarterfinals. WSJ has many players that play both sports.
When the Rams do get the season rolling, coach Brandon Dumas expects Treshaun Trench to lead the way for a very young, retooling squad.
“She’s our leader, a real field general,” said Dumas. “She’ll be at shortstop and she’s our team captain. You can critique her and she’ll use that to get better. She doesn’t sulk about it … She really just has that leadership quality that’s really rare. She’s our best hitter and a great fielder.”
Kaieonne Sorapuru will lock down center field as a junior, while Sydnei Young returns as pitcher.
The Rams must replace five starters from last year’s high-scoring squad.
“This is going to be a teaching year,” said Dumas. “We’ll have two eighth grade starters among our new faces. I’m looking forward to it though. I think our young girls are definitely up to this.”
While Dumas said he can’t wait to get started, he’s more than happy to do so given the success of the basketball team.
“I want them to go as far as possible,” said Dumas. “We’ll make up these early games, but I definitely love seeing them have this success.”