Bittersweet ending in Sulphur: RA finishes 2nd, SCC falls in semis

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

SULPHUR — The goals of every high school softball team in the state are to get to Sulphur and play on the last day of the season.

The Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic softball teams accomplished both of those goals last weekend but still came home disappointed.

Riverside, the No. 2 seed in Division II, left Sulphur with its second runner-up trophy after losing to No. 1 seed Parkview Baptist, 9-1, in Saturday’s championship game.

St. Charles Catholic, the No. 4 seed in the Division III bracket, got to the last day of the season thanks to a wild comeback in Friday’s quarterfinal but lost in the semifinals to No. 1 seed Calvary Baptist, 11-1.

Both coaches expressed pride in their team’s accomplishments.

“I told them, ‘We didn’t get the icing on top of the cake, but we got the cake,’” Riverside coach Tamra Regalo said.

The SCC softball team celebrates after scoring the winning run in Friday’s game against Archbishop Hannan. (Photo by Pat Mashburn)

It was bittersweet.

Last year both teams were upset in their regional round games, keeping them out of the final field of 56.

Riverside has not won a state title since 2002.

St. Charles has won two, one in 1998 (over Riverside), the other in 2008.

This was the first year of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s new split playoffs format, which crowned 12 champions in seven classes and five divisions.

With fewer teams in each bracket, Riverside and St. Charles needed to win only one game to advance to Sulphur.

Both posted lopsided wins in their first round games last week then had to endure a lengthy layoff until the tournament.

The Comets would need the rest.

After rallying for three runs in the seventh inning to force the game into extra innings, the Comets had two outs in the eighth when Brook St. Pierre hit a two-out hopper off the turf to score Jori Bryant and send the Comets into the semifinals.

Comets coach Ty Monica said it was one of the most thrilling moments of his career.

“It was phenomenal,” he said. “That moment will stay with me forever. It was definitely one for the ages. We practiced that all week, hitting balls on the turf to get that bounce.”

It may have taken a little too much out of his team, though.

Monica said he could feel a difference in his team during pre-game warm-ups for No. 1 seed Calvary Baptist on Saturday.

“They just didn’t have that same intensity,” he said.

“I don’t know if that first game took so much out of them that they just had nothing left or what. Don’t get me wrong, Calvary was better than us. Whether they’re 10 runs better than us is another story.”

Whatever it was, the Comets lost to Calvary 11-1 to end an improbable run to Sulphur.

“We had graduated six seniors from last year’s team,” Monica said.

“Most of those girls had played three or four years and one had played since she was an eighth grader. It was one of the best teams I ever put on the field. Expectations were pretty low this year. But I think we showed that the program doesn’t graduate. We’ve got a tradition here.”

Riverside had an easier day Friday, scoring nine runs in the second inning on the way to a 13-3 5-inning win over No. 10 Cabrini.

Madison Watson’s 3-run double helped fuel the inning while pitcher Alexis Johnson held the Crescents to two hits, striking out five.

In the semifinals, Johnson continued her heroics, pitching a 3-hitter and striking out 10 in a 12-3 win over E.D. White.

The freshman also hit a solo home run (her 16th), a double and a single to help the Rebels get to the finals.

The Rebels’ streak ended there, however, with a 9-1 loss to Parkview Baptist.

Errors proved to be the team’s undoing — seven of them, leading to nine unearned runs. Johnson went 2-for-3 and drove in the game’s lone run.

“It wasn’t our best game, by far,” Regalo said. “We just didn’t play well. I don’t know what it was.”