SULPHUR — No. 8 Walker came within inches of keeping its season alive in the seventh inning of the Class 5A semifinal Friday, but No. 4 St. Amant held on for a 2-1 win at the LHSAA state softball tournament at North Frasch Park in Sulphur.
“I couldn’t ask for anymore,” Walker coach Hali Fletcher said. “They gave 100 percent. We knew St. Amant was going to be an awesome squad.”
The loss ended Walker's big turnaround from a 10-20 team a year ago to 24-10.
“They have done a 180 and had a fantastic season,” Fletcher said. “From game one to now, 100 percent improvement.”
Down a run with two outs in the top of the seventh, sophomore Haleigh Pourciau hit a high fly ball that looked like it would clear the fence and tie the game, but St. Amant left field Kelsi Martine made the catch at the fence.
“I wouldn’t ask for anybody else at the plate, especially that last inning,” Fletcher said. “We had Lainee Bailey, Ryann (Schexnayder) and Haleigh Pourciau.
“All three of them are some of our top hitters. It was planned out perfectly. It just didn’t fall in our (favor).”
Walker fell behind 1-0 in the first inning but tied it up in the second.
Bailey hit a single through the left side to lead off the inning and courtesy runner Brennan Jones moved to second on Schexnayder’s sacrifice bunt. Savannah Stafford then hit a hard grounder that took a high bounce off the turf in front of second baseman Sophie Smith.
Stafford beat out the throw at first, giving Jones enough time to score all the way from second.
“It felt like a breakthrough feeling because once one things start we usually get momentum to continue going and scoring,” Stafford said. “I thought that would be a push-through moment for us.”
But as quickly as the window opened for Walker, St. Amant’s Alyssa Romano closed it even faster. After Laynie Jones’ single with two outs in the third inning, Romano retired 13 consecutive batters.
“(Romano) did a great job on the rubber,” Fletcher said. “We knew we had to execute the small things to get some runs
across because (Romano) does a great job in the circle, Mark (Maher, St. Amant assistant coach) does a great job calling pitches and we knew their defense would be behind (Romano).
“We came in knowing that we had to do whatever it takes to get a runner across. We kind of chased some of her breaking pitches and we were hitting straight to their outfield. Their outfield made some great catches.”
St. Amant took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Sophie Smith’s two-out RBI single and regained the lead in the third on Kailey Dufour’s sacrifice fly.
Bailey and Schexnayder combined to hold St. Amant to two runs on six hits.
“My pitchers did a good job and our defense played well behind them,” Fletcher said. “It just didn’t fall our way.”
Despite falling one game short of reaching the finals for the first time since 1998, the future is looking good for Walker, who lose only two seniors from this year’s squad in Laynie Jones and Gracie Jones.
“I think the future is bright for us,” Stafford said. “I think that we will continue to go far. The talent is here.”