Chalk up DeRidder’s 14-13 2016 season as a learning period because a year later the Lady Dragons have more than doubled their win total and are headed to Sulphur for the LHSAA state softball tournament for the first time since 2013.
“You always have that transition period and that was the lull we were in last year with a new coach,” second year DeRidder head coach Todd Shultz said. “We worked really hard in the offseason and in the weight room and it has paid off.
“They have really been buying into the process. That is something that I preached very early. They have been taking it one game, pitch by pitch. We have preached that it ‘we over me’ not ‘me over we’. They have come together as a team and have been grinding it out.”
DeRidder (30-4) will face No. 7 Grant (22-6) at 2:30 p.m. on Friday at North Frasch Park in Sulphur.
DeRidder doesn’t have any seniors this year but it does have some heavy hitting juniors in Kailey LeFrere (.508, 21 RBIs, 29 runs, 5 home runs), Lauren Parson (.411, 31 RBIs, 37 runs, 3 home runs) and Taylor Cobb (.301, 30 RBIs, 34 runs, 2 home runs).
“One through nine, we do the right thing,” Schultz said. “We do have our days when we were not consistent throughout the lineup but when we get all cylinders clicking we do really well.”
Parson has also been a force at the plate with 191 strikeouts to just 36 walks in 171 innings while posting a 25-4 record with a 0.938 earned run average.
On the other side of the bracket is No. 1 North DeSoto, the two-time defending 4A state champ, who beat DeRidder 6-0 in the regionals last year but barely beat the Lady Dragons 3-1 earlier this year at the Sulphur High Spring Classic.
North DeSoto (28-3), led by senior pitcher and Northwestern State University signee Emma Callie Delafield, will take on No. 9 Lakeshore (19-10) at 12 p.m. on Friday. North DeSoto has won 15 consecutive games.
Also at 12 p.m., No. 3 Morgan City (25-3) will take on No. 11 West Ouachita (15-17) while No. 4 Belle Chasse (24-6) will face No. 12 Benton (16-15) at 12 p.m.
Morgan City is led by junior pitcher Kennedy Hebert who is a major factor in the circle and at the plate. Hebert is 22-3 with 253 strikeouts and just 26 walks while hitting .587 with 47 RBIs, nine doubles, 11 triples and five home runs.
In Division II, Parkview Baptist (26-8) is the No. 1 seed for the second straight season. They were the No. 1 in Class 3A last year but lost 8-2 to eventual state champion Kaplan in the semifinals.
Parkview will face No. 8 Ursuline (16-13) at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Ursuline is make its first trip to Sulphur since 2013 when they lost to West Ouachita 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
In the other 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal, No. 2 Riverside Academy (22-7), led by freshman phenom Lexi Johnson, will take on No. 10 Cabrini (15-15).
Johnson is hitting .516 with 52 RBIs, 21 doubles and 15 home runs while seniors Madison Watson (.471, 36 RBIs, 15 doubles, 8 home runs) and Toni Perrin (.456, 30 RBIs, 14 doubles, 10 home runs) have combined for 18 home runs and 66 RBIs.
At 12 p.m., No. 4 Loyola Prep (19-10) will take on No. 5 Academy of Our Lady (17-12) and No. 3 E.D. White will face No. 11 St. Thomas More (12-18).