Walker gets payback against Airline

ONE DOWN: Airline’s Lindsey Marcinkus (blue jersey No. 5) tags out a Walker runner at third base during the Lady Wildcats’ 12-0 victory over the Vikings Wednesday in the 5A softball playoffs.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

Lainee Bailey admitted to being a little fired up when she took the field for Walker’s second-round Class 5A softball playoff game at Airline Wednesday afternoon.

“When I came out, my blood was boiling from last year,” said Bailey, whose Lady Wildcats were determined to avenge last year’s quarterfinal loss to the Lady Vikings.

After opening with a four-run first inning and adding eight more runs in the fourth, No. 3-seeded Walker (30-4) walked away with a 12-0 victory in five innings to set up a quarterfinal match against the winner of No. 22 Acadiana and No. 6 Central-Baton Rouge. In addition to avenging last season’s playoff loss, the win marked the 100th victory for Walker coach Hali Fletcher.

It was hard to tell if Bailey was talking about her blood boiling at the plate or in the circle. By the time the fifth inning was over, the senior pitcher had struck out 10 and given up just two hits and two walks. At the plate, she was 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, and 4 RBI.

“That’s pretty common for Lainee in the circle,” Fletcher said about Bailey’s double-digit strikeout performance. “We were on a mission. Our goal was to score first and play clean defense.”

In both big innings, it was Bailey who got the Wildcats going. Batting third, Bailey came up to the plate in the first inning with runners on first and second and no outs. The Southeastern Louisiana signee took the fourth pitch she saw and blasted a two-run double to get the scoring started.

Bailey got the Wildcats going again in the top of the fourth with a two-run home run that opened the floodgates. By the time the inning was over, Walker had batted around, hitting three home runs, two RBI doubles, and two singles that gave the Wildcats eight more runs.

“I came out ready to give everything,” said Bailey. “And the rest of the team had my back defensively and offensively.”

The only hits for Airline (19-13) came on a single by Elena Heng in the first inning and a double by Paige Marshall in the fourth.

The loss was especially difficult for shortstop Jina Baffuto, one of Airline’s two starting seniors.

“We had a good run,” Baffuto said of her Lady Vikings’ career. “Airline hasn’t had this good of a team (last year’s team made it to the championship game) in a long time. It sucks losing, but now I’ll open the next chapter.”

Baffuto and catcher Paris Endris have both signed to play at Louisiana Tech.

“Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with this season,” said Airline coach Brittany Smith. “We had a lot of kinks at the beginning of the season that we worked out. One of our pitchers got hurt early so we were down to one. We had a winning record and got the first-round upset (on the road against Chalmette).”

For Airline, the future looks bright. Both pitchers, Emily Rachal and Aleena Duran, started as freshmen this season. Rachel recorded five strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work on Wednesday.

“We’re young,” said Smith. “Seven of our 10 players were freshman and sophomores, two were seniors, and one was a junior.”

Photo by JOHN PENROD