Rebs run ends in semis

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, May 6, 2014


LAPLACE — Riverside coach Kristy Hebert had a clear message for her players, many of them tearful, at the conclusion of the Rebels’ 10-5 loss to top-seeded Oak Grove in the Class 2A softball semifinals on Saturday. 

“Nobody gave you a chance to be here. There’s no reason for anyone here to hang their heads,” Hebert said to her team in the final Riverside postgame huddle of the season. “We’ll be back, I promise.”

Indeed, at the season’s outset, few expected to see a retooled Riverside team playing on the final day of competition, let alone leading 2A’s No. 1 seed 3-0 early on in that semifinal matchup. The Rebels started just one senior this season and replaced five core starters after the graduation of five seniors from the 2013 2A runner-up.  

“I’m just proud of our team, being so young and with so many new starters,” said Hebert. “A lot of players who sacrificed, moved positions, gave up a spot on the field that maybe they’re better at because we needed them somewhere else. I couldn’t ask the girls for more.”

Oak Grove recovered quickly after Riverside’s hot start, scoring seven runs over the third and fourth innings to take a 7-3 lead and control of the game. 

The Tigers went on to defeat Menard in the 2A state championship game, 5-4. The three wins in Sulphur were the first three in the history of the Oak Grove program. 

It was the fourth consecutive season that Riverside has at least reached the semifinal round. 

Riverside jumped out early, first after Erica Delaneuville’s two-out home run in the first inning, a solo shot to right that made it 1-0. Riverside wasn’t done, pushing its lead to 2-0 after Janie Milioto singled with the bases loaded to make it 2-0. Milioto came through again in the third inning, her infield single plating Delaneuville and making it 3-0.

But a handful of baserunning mistakes and defensive plays by Oak Grove kept the Rebels from inflicting more damage. 

The Rebels’ saw their bases loaded threat end in the first when Taylor Aubert was thrown out at home after Milioto’s single. Toni Perrin was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the second inning, and in the fourth inning Oak Grove right fielder Madison Bruce threw out Madison Watson at third after a Hailey Tassin single. 

The Rebels (17-12) put 13 baserunners on in the first four innings but mustered just three runs. 

“I thought we had an opportunity to maybe blow the game open,” said Hebert. “I thought we slacked off a little after we got a few runs across.”

Oak Grove (27-4) made its first big move in the third inning, tying the game after loading the bases with one out. Alexis Lowery and Jessica Travis each delivered RBI singles before Jayden Stephenson drew a walk to force home the game-tying run. 

“This team has such a fight about it,” said Oak Grove coach Trey Bennett. “We’re gonna battle you for seven innings.”

That led Hebert to lift starting pitcher Toni Hebert for reliever Cheyenne Triche. Triche got Bruce to fly out; the Rebels got out of the inning when Oak Grove sent a runner home too early from third, clearing the sacrifice fly and a run off the board.

But the Tigers again loaded the bases in the fourth, this time with no outs. Toni Hebert was reinserted for Triche after Sarah Logan drew a walk to force home the go-ahead run. Abby Cook landed the biggest blow of the game, a bases-clearing double that put Oak Grove ahead 7-3. 

Riverside fired back in the fifth after Rayne Weber’s leadoff double and Milioto’s third single of the game. Toni Perrin pushed both runs across when Oak Grove misplayed her fly ball to right and Oak Grove led 7-5.

The Rebels’ best chance to tie or reclaim the lead likely came in the sixth, but a pair of strong defensive plays in left field by Jayden Stephenson robbed Riverside of that opportunity. 

“That was huge for us. We took the momentum back there,” said Bennett. 

In the bottom of the sixth, Oak Grove all but put things away. The Tigers loaded the bases for the third time in four innings, this time on two singles and an error. 

Lowery singled to make it 8-5, then a second error pushed home another run. Jayden Stephenson’s sacrifice fly made it 10-5, and the Rebels couldn’t answer. 

“Our girls kept competing,” said Kristy Hebert. “After the defensive errors, the baserunning errors, our pitching was down, they kept looking to answer.”