Riverside swings for softball semifinals

Published 3:17 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023


RESERVE — Hot at the plate, Riverside Academy’s softball team has hit a record-setting 63 home runs. The team slammed past last year’s record of 58 during the first round of the playoffs, and coach Tamra Regalo is hopeful this group of girls will bring the same fire to the Division IV state tournament.

Riverside Academy advanced to the Select Division IV semifinals following Saturday’s 14-5 win against Sacred Heart of Ville Platte. The No. 2 seeded Lady Rebels will challenge No. 3 St. Frederick’s at Frasch Park in Sulphur at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The winner will advance to the championship game at noon on Saturday.

This is the sixth consecutive year Riverside has earned a spot in the state tournament, but the semifinal hurdle has proved difficult to overcome. The girls that comprise the team today weren’t born when the Lady Rebels claimed their sole championship title in 2002.

Riverside faced St. Frederick’s in the playoffs two years ago, and Regalo expects Friday’s game to be a good match between two quality teams.

“They have done the same as us this year. They played a tough schedule. They were at the same tournament we were at, playing those big teams,” Regalo said. “I think it will be a good match-up, and I hope my kids will rise to the occasion. I think they will. They’ve been coming together these past couple of months and have gotten better and better as time goes on.”

Expectations were high when almost every player from the 2022 semifinal team returned to the diamond this year. Regalo put together a heavy schedule with immense challenges from a group of talented Northern Louisiana teams. However, most of the scrimmages leading up to the first game were rain outs, leaving the Lady Rebels with very little time to find their groove as a team in the preseason.

“The start of the season was a little rough. We hit the ball well, but we just weren’t where we wanted to be pitching wise and defensive wise. As the season went on, we just continued to be that really good contender,” Regalo said.

During Saturday’s quarterfinal game, Riverside came back from an early deficit with 14 runs, including four home runs from seniors Ava Fernandez, Camryn Loving, Lea St. Pierre and Emily Vicknair.

Hitting has been consistent up and down the lineup for the entirety of the season. Ava, Camryn and Alainah Felton have each hit more than 10 homers, according to Regalo. Cam has maintained a batting average of .611 against some of the best pitchers in the state.

“All of them have done phenomenal. We’re known for the homeruns,” Regalo said. “Almost everyone has hit one, and the one who hasn’t has done a phenomenal job in the two-hole bunting and getting base hits in clutch situations.”

Heading back to the state tournament, Regalo said the girls will need to let go of their nerves and focus on the game at hand.

“They’ve got to have fun. Don’t make it bigger than what the moment is,” she said. “We’ve got to think of it as just another game of softball and not think about it being a semifinal or a championship game.”