It was only right that Vandebilt Catholic softball coach Margaret Johnson was able to coach her final game in Sulphur – a place that has been so good to her and the Lady Terriers in years past.
But unfortunately for the multi-time state championship-winning coach, her last trip to the Class 4A State Championship Game ended seven runs short of victory.
After easily beating No. 15 North DeSoto 7-0 early Saturday afternoon in the Class 4A Semifinals, the Lady Terriers rolled into a winner-take-all state championship battle with No. 4 St. Thomas More later that evening.
Vandebilt’s luck wasn’t quite as good in its second game of the day, as the Cougars pounded the Lady Terriers en route to an 11-5 victory – their second-straight Class 4A crown.
The loss ended Johnson’s career as Vandebilt’s softball coach. She’s won seven state championships in her 20-plus seasons with the team.
But No. 8 was never meant to be, as St. Thomas More dog-piled to rejoice their back-to-back titles.
“This is so amazing,” Lady Cougars pitcher Whitney Romero told The Advertiser in Lafayette after the win. “We need to show everyone that last year wasn’t going to be just a one-year thing. We worked so hard this year to get here.”
For Vandebilt, it was a rocky start that doomed the team’s hopes of bringing home the ring.
The Lady Cougars scored runs in each of the first four innings of Saturday night’s title game, plating two in the first, five in the second and one run each in the third and fourth innings to take a massive 9-1 advantage.
The runs came off Lady Terriers’ junior pitcher Nora Keehn, who had pitched a shutout against North DeSoto just hours before facing St. Thomas More.
Johnson said following the game that Keehn “pitched her heart out” against St. Thomas More, but couldn’t get any breaks to go her way throughout the game. Keehn allowed 14 hits to the advantageous Lady Cougars – most coming in the early innings of play. The coach added that the game could have possibly gone in a different direction if a few pitches in the game had gone differently.
Some of the pitches Johnson were likely talking about came in bottom of the first and top of the second inning – the time of the game that arguably decided the outcome.
St. Thomas More struck for two in the top of the first to take a quick 2-0 lead. But Vandebilt looked primed to respond, loading the bases with just one out on Romero.
But instead of plating the clutch hit, the Lady Terriers’ rally was thwarted, as Romero struck out Hannah Hebert for the second out, then coaxed Mackenzie Rousseau to lazily fly out to end the inning.
Riding that momentum, St. Thomas More exploded for five runs in the top of the second inning to go ahead 7-0, which seemingly put the game away for good.
“Our game plan was to jump out on them early,” St. Thomas More coach Andria Waguespack told The Advertiser following the win. “We wanted to be aggressive on first pitch strikes because we know that (Keehn) likes to live up high and we made her have to come into the strike zone. … We hit the ball hard.”
Vandebilt rallied late and inched close to the Lady Cougars in the bottom of the fifth inning, thanks to a two-run dinger from Kaitlyn Dardar, which made the game 9-4.
But instead of shriveling up, St. Thomas More made one, last championship push, scoring two runs in the top of the sixth inning to seal the victory for good.
The loss ends Vandebilt’s season with a 22-11 record.
Before beating North DeSoto in the Semifinals, Vandebilt trumped No. 22 Rayne 15-0 on Friday evening in the Class 4A Quarterfinals – a game that was called after four innings because of the LHSAA’s mercy rule. But the team couldn’t carry all of that momentum forward and fell one victory short of its ultimate goal of the title.
ELLENDER FALLS TO ST. THOMAS MORE IN STATE QUARTERS
Vandebilt wasn’t the only local team to have their state championship hopes smashed by St. Thomas More. The eventual champions ousted Ellender from the playoffs, as well.
Just 24 hours before locking horns with the Lady Terriers, the Lady Cougars dusted off Ellender 5-1 in the Class 4A State Quarterfinals – a game that ended the Lady Patriots’ season with a 22-9 record.
The 2014 season was a banner year for Ellender, who overcame several-straight unsuccessful seasons to rebound in a big way to earn a spot in Sulphur.
But against St. Thomas More, Romero was too much for the Lady Patriots’ powerful offense, striking out 13 batters in the win.
CENTRAL CATHOLIC BOUNCED IN SEMIFINALS
In the Class 1A bracket, Central Catholic was one of the teams favored to take home the state championship trophy.
But like Vandebilt and Ellender, Lady Luck was not on the Lady Eagles’ side and the team rode back home to Morgan City without the championship trophy.
For Central Catholic, their path to the title started promising. The No. 2 Lady Eagles pounded No. 10 St. John 9-1 in Friday afternoon’s Quarterfinals matchup in Sulphur.
To advance to the state tournament, Central Catholic enjoyed a similar outcome in the second round in a 10-1 victory over St. Mary. But while the Lady Eagles pitched and hit their way into the semifinals, the well ran dry once there.
Against No. 3 Ascension Catholic, Central Catholic’s bats were kept off balance throughout the game, leading to a 5-0 victory for Ascension. The loss ends the Lady Eagles’ season with a 27-4 record, including several wins over Class 5A foes, including Terrebonne, South Lafourche and Captain Shreve.
The Lady Eagles also scored a pair of victories over Ellender in pre-district play.-
Vandebilt Catholic pitcher Nora Keehn puts all of her energy into a pitch. Keehn and the Lady Terriers had their season stopped just one win short of the Class 4A State Championship this past week, falling to St. Thomas More in the Class 4A Championship Game.