SULPHUR, La (KMSS/KTAL) – While the 2020 softball season was cancelled due to COVID-19, the 2021 tournament helped make up for it with three Ark-La-Tex teams taking home state titles. Calvary won the Division IV championship, Many took home its first-ever state title in Class 2A, and North DeSoto returned to its winning ways with its first championship since 2017.
DIVISION IV: Calvary 1, Catholic P.C 0
Coming into the Division IV state championship, Calvary softball was averaging over 12 runs per game in the postseason. However, through the first seven innings, the Cavaliers failed to score one.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said Cavaliers head coach Tiffany Wood. “Our defense and pitching were going to have to hang in there. We knew it was going to be a one or two-run game.”
Calvary scored 13 runs the day prior in the semifinals. Their opponent, Catholic of Pointe Coupee, did the same. But when these top two teams met, it was a classic pitcher’s duel between seniors Riley Walker (Calvary) and Blaire Bizette (Catholic).
“I just have to remind myself that I have been prepared,” said Riley. “I have been preparing for this moment all season, all year. I just have to rely on my defense. I know that they have my back.”
Scoreless through seven frames, the game headed to extra innings. In the top of the eighth inning, Riley’s teammates had her back. The Hornets failed to reach base, so the Cavaliers went up to bat.
“Our maturity level to just hang in there, to not crumble, to stay tough…I think that’s the bottom line,” said Coach Wood. “When you get later in innings and it’s 0-0, you just gotta find that one edge, and we found it.”
That edge turned out to be a Walker, but not Riley. Instead, her little sister Ramsey stepped up to the plate. The freshman’s RBI double won Calvary its first state championship since 2017.
“This is my last game playing with her, which is a very sad moment,” said Riley. “But, this feeling is indescribable. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s so amazing.”
CLASS 2A: Many 4, Doyle 2
For the past couple of years, Many softball has fallen just short of the Class 2A title. Back in 2018, the Tigers were upset in the quarterfinals by a nine-seed. In 2019, Many was shutout in the semifinals. Both years the Tigers were the top seed, and both years they went home before championship Saturday.
“We felt like we had a big target on our back,” said Many head coach Keaton Booker. “We’ve been the one-seed in the past and haven’t gotten it done and we just felt like that was an obstacle we had to get over.”
Last year’s obstacle was COVID-19. With the season being cancelled just two games in, the Tigers set their eyes on 2021.
“2020 it fueled this,” said Booker. “They’ve been together since they were five years old. This is the best group, best team that has ever come through Many. And they had something that they had to finish.”
However, the championship’s game start wasn’t what Many had hoped. Down two runs in the sixth inning, the Tigers needed some runs. Then, they got four to win their first ever state championship.
“They fought,” said Booker. “They fought all year. Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle, and they got it done.”
The number one seed is finally the number one team in Class 2A.
CLASS 4A: North DeSoto 13, Beau Chene 7
After winning three straight Class 4A titles from 2015 to 2017, North DeSoto softball went through a dry spell. This year, the Lady Griffins finally made it back to the championship, but down 5-0 in the third inning, things didn’t look too good.
“That was a big hit in the face, ” said North DeSoto head coach Tim Whitman. “You know I told them we’ve been working too hard for this just to say lay down.”
Taking their coaches’ advice, the Lady Griffins wasted no time to start the comeback. After giving up four runs in the top of the frame, North DeSoto answered back with seven.
“I was like, ‘Oh snap, what if we don’t win?'”said senior outfielder Madelyn Garrett. “But then I was like, ‘Nah, my team got me.’”
However, it was actually Madelyn who had her team. After tying the game at five, the senior hit a home run to seal the deal.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to be here on this stage,” said Whitman. “And I’ll probably have a few more if I stay and don’t die, but man, to see the joy on these kids’ faces. Just the effort they’ve put in all year and the work just for it to pay off, was, you know, was just outstanding.”
That work included a tough schedule throughout the season. However, overcoming those challenges helped them prevail when it mattered the most.
“We said we’re going to play quality teams to get prepared and ready to go for this,” said Whitman. “And that’s where it came out. When we got here, we’d already played people like this and it showed when we came back towards the end.”
According to Madelyn, that’s just what North DeSoto softball does.
“The Griffins don’t back down,” Madelyn said. “The Griffins don’t back down.”