Stretch run: Lady Rebels eye playoff magic

Published 12:01 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

RESERVE — The Riverside Academy Lady Rebels struggle to form an identity on the field one game and slam home runs against the most talented pitchers in the district the next.

It’s been a challenging season tainted by injury, according to head coach Tamra Regalo. With only three games remaining in regular season play, the Lady Rebels’ (7-11) record doesn’t stand up to previous seasons.

Seventh grader Emily Vicknair, above, has become a dominant pitcher.

Just last year, the team advanced to the state championship before losing to Parkview Baptist.

Regalo isn’t ruling out another deep playoff run. She said the girls are fighting hard against a challenging schedule and growing with each pitch and swing of the bat.

“Our goal is to get to Sulphur. Nobody should count us out,” Regalo said.

“We’ve had a rough go at it so far in what we’ve been dealt, but, man, I’m excited to see how we do when everybody’s healthy.”

Pitching has been reconfigured throughout the season as veteran players recuperated from surgery and tendonitis.

Briley Becker is the senior leader for the Riverside softball team, producing solid defense game in and game out.

Seventh grade pitcher-catcher duo Emily Vicknair and Cameron Loving stepped up and have done a commendable job competing alongside older girls.

Cameron is a shortstop turned catcher who has grabbed her new position by the horns and cultivated a talent for throwing out base runners. The sister of Rebels quarterback Jordan Loving and daughter of Tara Loving, a former Southeastern Louisiana University softball player, Cameron comes from a long tradition of athletic prowess.

Vicknair is coming out strong in her pitching, throwing up to seven innings at a time to accumulate an impressive 21 strikeouts.

As of this weekend, she will have pitched approximately 50 innings, a feat Regalo considers remarkable for a seventh grader.

“I’m really excited to see what the future holds for Emily,” Regalo said. “It’s a joy to watch a seventh grader get out there. When she throws a change-up, she has this big grin on her face, and it’s so awesome to see.”

Regalo said the last seventh grader she leaned so heavily on was Lexi Johnson, a current sophomore who helped carry the team in pitching prior to injury.

Johnson has struggled with bicep tendonitis, and Regalo hopes she will be cleared to throw come playoff time. In the meantime, Johnson supports the team with her hitting.

“For her first couple of games back, Lexi’s been restricted in what she can do,” Regalo said. “She was hot before her injury, and it took her a little while to get going again. She hit two home runs [against Maurepas], and she’s on six home runs total.��

Senior Briley Becker is a veteran, carrying years of playoff experience to her starting shortstop position.

Regalo described Becker as a well-rounded athlete who slid easily into softball after months of being fully involved in volleyball and a basketball semifinal run.

“Briley is one of those key defensive people that we lean on to make plays,” Regalo said. “Not only is she playing really good defense, but she’s one of the top two batters and a good overall leader.”

With a seventh grader on the mound and seniors in the infield, all ages and experience levels must come together.

“Our JV practices with our varsity, so they knew going into it that we were asking those young kids to play at a higher level,” Regalo said. “They were ready to step into those spots, and you can tell they’ve grown tremendously from the first game to where they are now.”

The Lady Rebels next play St. Amant at 5 p.m. Monday at home before finishing out regular season play with games against Morgan City and Baker.