By BRET H. McCORMICK, Journal Sports
SULPHUR – Rebuilding year. Reloading year. It doesn’t seem to matter these days for the Calvary Baptist Academy softball team.
Each year ends with a state softball championship.
The Lady Cavs’ explosive offense dominated the two-day competition at the LHSAA State Softball Tournament at Frasch Park this past weekend as top-seeded Calvary (26-10) picked up two mercy-rule, five-inning victories, including a 13-3 win over No. 6 D’Arbonne Woods Charter on Saturday to claim the Division III Select championship.
Calvary pounded out 15 hits on Saturday, including eight extra-base hits, and scored four runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings to quickly extinguish D’Arbonne Woods. Junior second baseman Danni “DJ” Lynch finished 4-for-4 with three doubles and four runs scored, while junior shortstop Ramsey Walker finished with three hits, three runs and two RBI.
Senior third baseman Tavia Leadon provided the biggest hit of the game, a two-run homer in the second inning that gave Calvary a 5-0 lead. The home run was Leadon’s 13th of the season. She added a double later in the game and drove in three runs, while junior first baseman Mary Woodle finished with two doubles and two RBI.
“Any time you can score runs, especially for our freshman pitcher, it just lets her have a little more room to work with,” Calvary coach Tiffany Wood said. “And then we added on some more runs in the second. It just lets her be able to relax and throw her pitches.”
“We just came out and played our game,” Walker said. “… I knew that we had the ability. As long as we did our job and stick to our plan, we’d be fine.”
Walker and the other three hitters at the top of the Lady Cavs’ lineup combined to go 11-for-15 with eight extra-base hits and nine RBIs in the championship game. The quartet batted .708 during the two games at the state tournament.
“We have an explosive offense,” Wood said. “We try to be a tough out one through nine in our lineup. We stay in it defensively, make good plays, stay in it with great pitching and just try to put pressure on the other team one through nine.”
The Lady Cavs, who didn’t play more than five innings in a single playoff game due to the mercy rule, found themselves tested for the first time in the postseason on Saturday.
After falling behind 5-0 after two innings, D’Arbonne Woods responded by scoring three runs in the third inning. Senior second baseman Emmalyn Newcomb doubled to give the Lady Wolverines two runners in scoring position with nobody out, and senior center fielder Laynie Jones drove in two runs with a single. Jones later scored on a two-out RBI single by senior third baseman Olivia Roan.
That would be the Wolverines’ last major threat, though, as Calvary pitcher Kynzee Anderson settled down to pitch the final two innings scoreless as the Lady Cavs’ bats reawakened.
Leadon and Woodle both had run-scoring doubles in the fourth inning, while sophomore center fielder Elana Franks added an RBI single to push Calvary’s lead to 9-3. Walker’s double in the sixth inning made it 11-3, and Franks’ two-run single ended the game as Walker and pinch runner Amilee Bain crossed the plate to set off Calvary’s post-game championship celebration.
It was the third straight state title for Calvary, which won the Division IV championships in 2021 and 2022, and the program’s fifth overall state softball championship in the past eight seasons.
“It’s hard to win a state championship,” Wood said. “This is our third in a row, and that’s even harder. (That’s) a lot of pressure, and we tell them all the time, pressure is a privilege. We work hard year-round and this team, they have excelled, and we are really excited.”
Calvary advanced to the championship game in emphatic fashion.
Lynch hit solo home runs to lead off the first and third innings – her 18th and 19th of the season – to give the Lady Cavs a 2-0 lead, and they added a nine-spot to the scoreboard in the fifth for an 11-0 victory over No. 4 Houma Christian Friday evening.
Lynch didn’t get a chance for home run No. 20, walking twice in the fifth, but after each of her walks, Walker crushed no-doubt home runs, the last of which was a walk-off grand slam. Walker finished the season with 21 home runs.
Anderson pitched a two-hit gem in the circle, striking out eight batters and not allowing a runner past second base.
With just one senior starter graduating and four soon-to-be seniors returning at the top of the lineup, the Lady Cavaliers will enter the 2024 season with a target on their backs as the team to beat in the Division III Select division, just as they were entering 2023.
But, as Wood stated, Calvary looks at pressure as a privilege, and Walker believes if the Lady Cavs take the same approach as they did this season, a fourth straight title is certainly within reach.
“We played together more as a team (this year) and we trusted each other and we had each other’s back,” Walker said, “and that’s how I think we executed so good this year.”