After a successful four-year run that culminated with 40 school records falling, it was no surprise that five members of the Hahnville softball team took part in the National Letter of Intent Spring Signing Ceremony on Wednesday at the Satellite Center in Luling.
Second baseman Danieller Duplay signed with Nicholls State, Third Baseman Catherine Friloux with the University of Missouri Kansas City, catcher Kamryn Keller Coastal Alabama South, First baseman Courtney Ortego to Baton Rouge Community College, and pitcher Karly Taranto to Northwest Florida State.
Hahnville coach Jerry Nugent who led the Lady Tigers to a school-record 33 wins this season addressed the crowd at the ceremony with emotional comments on each player. The following is from Coach Nugent's notes:
“I would like to thank the School Board, the Superintendent, Mr. Rome, Coach Wise and the DHS and HHS athletic directors for putting on such a great event together in a way that only SCPPS can do. I would also like to thank all of you for your continued support throughout our season. Your consistent presence year after year is source of pride and inspiration to our team. I would also like to acknowledge Coach Wise for his service to SCPPS athletics, as he is retiring at the end of the month. We appreciate all you have done for us.
To the coaches, parents, and most importantly the players that are here this morning I would like to say congratulations. Being a student athlete is a time consuming, physically and mentally exhausting endeavor that no one fully understands unless they do it. Not only have all of you done it, but you have done it at the highest of levels. Congratulations!
Before I speak specifically about our HHS Softball players as individuals, I would like to give Danielle, Kam, Karly, Courtney, Cat, and Sarah a collective thank you. A class of athletes like our softball program has had the past four years is very special. Sometimes Coaches go entire careers without getting the privilege of doing what I was able to do for the past four years. You guys leave us with a four record of 108-22 over 40 school records set, and numerous district, metro, and state accolades. But your legacy is far more important than that. It is about the work ethic, the selflessness and love you brought to our program that has set the standard for those who will follow you. You have our deepest gratitude.
Danielle Duplay: The Spark Plug
(.474, 61 Runs, 37 SB)
The first time I really spent time with Danielle Duplay was when she was an 8th grader. She was at our HHS softball tournament with her dad watching the games. Since I knew I’d be coaching her for the next few years I was about to go over and say hello. However before I did, I found myself watching her watch the games. She hung on everything that was going on. Every movement of the pitchers, every cut the hitters took, even what the umpires were calling. Her eyes were bulging open and she was filled with eagerness and anticipation. I swear if someone would have let her, she would have grabbed a bat and jumped into one of the games. That’s who Danielle Duplayis. She is a ball player eager to produce and boy has she. Speed up to midway through her senior season, we were in the middle of a 24 game winning streak and had played 18 games in three week. We were tired. I gave the team an unscheduled day off. I went to the field to cut the grass that afternoon and who was there? Danielle Duplay hitting on the tees. Like I said, a ball player eager to produce. And boy has she.
Now this was not always a seamless process. Upon arriving at Hahnville as freshmen, she instantly made an impact on the program and was thrust into the starting lineup. In Her first Varsirty gam Dee Dee hit two hard balls that day that ended up being caught. You would have thought her world had ended. She was so upset with herself she could barely see. In speaking with her after game I remember her going on and on about how much being good at Hahnville meant to her. I asked her what did she think plan to do about it and she quickly responded play great. Boy did she say a mouthful. She has not looked back from that day.
Danielle has been what I call the spark plug of our team. She gets everything going for our offense. She is a versatile three tool hitter who can work her way on base bunting, slapping or swinging away. Once Danielle is on base, the fact of the matter is Hahnville Scores. Over the last four years, our team has scored 84% of the time when Danielle reaches base, hence the term spark plug. As I like to say our offense goes as #3 goes. Anytime she gets on base it’s like automatically getting two bases, as she is almost a lock to steal second. She is the quintessential leadoff hitter. Not only because of her skill set, but because of her mentality. Being a leadoff hitter is not easy. Many times it requires you grinding your way on base and advancing to the next base so that someone else can get the glory of knocking you in. This is a role that is often unheralded but one that any successful coach at any level will tell you is a must if you expect to win.
Danielle not only embraces the role of spark plug but she has perfected it. Danielle leaves Hahnville as our single season and career leader in stolen bases, runs scored and bases on balls. She also finished her high school career with a career batting average over.400. The bottom line is that Danielle is that she is best leadoff hitter in the state. On top of this she is among the best middle infielders in the state. Check out any of the video of this year’s state tournament and you find an abundance of evidence to support this.
All that being said, none of this happened by accident. Danielle is ferocious worker. She gives up almost Danielle has worked very hard and given more than the average athlete can even comprehend to get to this point. Her off seasons, her weekends, her holidays, are spent working her craft. Her dedication to being great is unmatched. Nicholls state is getting themselves one heck of spark plug for their engine.
To these points, Danielle I want you to know it’s an honor to know you, it’s been a rare privilege to have coached you and Hahnville is forever grateful to have had you represent us.
Catherine Friloux: The Legacy
(.392, 4 HR, 44 RBI)
With the very first pitch Catherine Friloux saw as a HHS tiger she hit a home run. That is a heck of a way to start your career and judging that from the outside, one might think that she had an easy road. They would be mistaken. Cat may have made more pressure on her coming into the softball program than any player I have ever coached. You see Cat was a legacy player. Her sister Pop was one of Hahville’s most successful players and was part of one of Hanville’s most decorated softball classes. And here comes a 15 year old Cat Friloux, a talented player in what was expected to be the “NEXT” great class. It is safe to say that those expectations were a lot for young player. But Cat did what Cat does. She rose to the occasion.
Catherine leaves Hahnville ranking in the top five in almost every offensive category we have. Year after year, she elevated her level of play and more to the point she elevated the level of play of others. Cat was without a doubt the vocal and emotional leader of this group. She prided herself on having something positive to say to the team after every half inning. During some pressure filled games she was the voice reminding her teammates to stay loose, to stay focused to have fun. In fact she was even that presence for me. In this past state tournament in the quarterfinal round, I was fired up at a call by an umpire and was letting him know about it. Cat came up to me, as only Cat could do, and said “Don’t worry Coach Nuge, we got this”. I remember thinking, well if you got this lets get it done. Cat came up the very next at bat with an RBI single to top off a 3 for 3 performance that propelled us to the next round…. Which helped put me a little bit at ease.
Besides being incredibly talented and an emotional leader, Cat was true student of softball. She appreciated the scouting side of the game. She understood the fact that close games were won by the little details. On defense she constantly communicated with our coaching staff to know what every hitter’s tendencies were and made sure they were communicated to the team. She debriefed with coaches after every at bat to see what mechanical adjustments she needed to make and how the pitchers were throwing her. I always tell my players that there is no such things as luck. That luck is simply when preparation meets opportunity. Well, there was never a moment that we were going to face that Cat Friloux was not going to prepare for and her performance indicates that she took advantage of every opportunity. Missouri Kansas City is fortunate to have such a player.
To these points, Cat I want you to know it’s an honor to know you, it’s been a rare privilege to have coached you and Hahnville is forever grateful to have had you represent us.
Courtney Ortego: The Underdog
(.362, 10 HR, 48 RBI)
For the last four years Courtney Ortego has been one of the unsung heroes of HHS Softball. She has selflessly sacrificed of herself and agreed to leave her comfort zone for the betterment of her team.
When Courtney came to HHS as freshmen, she had strong background as an outfielder. I remember saying to her ”Courtney we need SS, I’d like you to give it a shot.” Her response “Yessir”. She was all-district that season.
A few years later, I went to Courtney in her exit meeting and asked her to move to third base. Her response “Yessir”. Another all-district season followed.
This past season in her exit meeting, she beat me to the punch. She was able to assess the team’s needs as well as the coaching staff had. She told me “Coach, I am assuming you’d like me to give first base a shot” When I told her I would her response was “Yessir that’s cool”. And she went on to yet another all-district season. To date, Courtney and Kam Keller are the only two HHS softball players to be all-district selections at three different positions.
That kind of unselfishness and willingness to go out of one’s comfort zone are the foundations that winning teams are built on. Another thing that builds winning teams is versatility. Courtney is the quintessential example of this. This was exemplified when she was freshmen. We were in 0-0 pitcher’s dual late in A game and hits were hard to come by. Courtney drag bunted her way on to first base, forced a bad throw by the defense and ended up on third base. Her sister Kelly then came up to the plate and squeezed bunted her home to give us 1-0 win. Ortego to Ortego – what a moment. Earlier this year in 0-0 battle with Sam Houston, Courtney homered to give us 1-0 lead which ended up being the deciding run in the game. Unselfishness and Versality – that is Courtney Ortego. She leaves HHS as our single season career leader in home runs and is in the top five in every offensive category we have. All of this done, while being one of the most open minded and team oriented players I have ever coached. I have no doubt BRCC is going to reap these benefits in the years to come.
To these points, Courtney I want you to know it’s an honor to know you, it’s been a rare privilege to have coached you and Hahnville is forever grateful to have had you represent us.
Kamryn Keller: Ice Water & Heart
(.512, 5 HR, 57 RBI)
If anyone has runs out of ice water, Its okay because KamrynKeller here has it running through her veins. She is one of the greatest pressure players our state and our program have ever seen. The bigger the moment, the bigger Kam played. She is the only player I have ever coaches whose career playoff batting average is higher than her career regular season batting average, both of which are extremely high. A lot of us softball coaches are often heard saying that a lot of players can produce but only special players can produce when the games is on the line. WellKamryn Keller is special. She ends her high school career as Hahnville’s leader in game winning hits. On the biggest of stages, if my job was on the line, I’d take Kamryn Keller at the plate any day of the week. She has always found a way to slow the game down. There is no greater evidence of this than her three hit 3 RBI performance in the state championship game.
Since she was little Kam has always been famous for having a very serious looking face on the softball field. At her first Hahnville practice I remember saying to her “Keller, I was told I may never see you smile is that true?” Her response was “I don’t know but did whoever told you that at they at tell you that I can play?” Luckily I was able to see Kam smile and it did not take much to realize that Kam can play. In her four years at Hahnville she has been in the top 3 in hitting every single season, while playing four different positions. She has always been a no-nonsense players who was about the getting the job done. In her senior season she finished with a batting average over .500 and more than 60 hits.
As I said with Danielle, this type of success does not just happen. Kamryn has worked relentlessly to be a great player and has been willing to sacrifice above and beyond. As many of you know, there was an unavoidable conflict this year with our senior prom and the state championship game. Last June, when the school calendar was released I immediately spoke to the team. Knowing our team had a real shot to play for the title, I immediately approached the team in the weight room to get this out on the table. Kam’s immediate reaction was to say “we’ve come too far to let prom hold us back from playing in that game and we will play for state”. That’s Kam Keller, without hesitation stepping up in a big moment.
I quipped earlier about Kam having ice water in her veins and as a competitor she does. But anyone who knows Kam knows she has nothing but warm blood flowing through a great big heart for her team and her school. One of the most touching and emotional moments I have ever had as a coach was seeing the newspaper picture of Kam’s embrace with a teammate after the state title game. The raw emotion of how much she loves her team and school were painfully evident. And that is exactly what Coastal Alabama is fortunate enough to get, a competitor with ice water in her veins and a teammate and person with love in her heart.
To these points, Kam I want you to know it’s an honor to know you, it’s been a rare privilege to have coached you and Hahnville is forever grateful to have had you represent us.
Karly Taranto: The Workhorse
(33-4, 149 K, 1.39 ERA)
The first time I met Karly Taranto she was 10 years old attending one of our softball camps. I remember her asking me what seemed like two hundred questions. Everything from how do our pitchers grip their change ups to what type of fertilizer do we use on the OF grass? It was apparent that she was a sweet kid who absolutely loved the game. Speed up eight years and here she sits a sweet young women who absolutely loves the game of softball.
There is no one who loves the game of softball more than KarlyTaranto and as such she chose to pursue its most difficult position. Pitcher. They say softball pitchers throw from a pitching circle. I would say it’s more appropriate to say that they throw from a fish bowl because all eyes are on them for better or worse. They are ones who get the credit when things go well and they are the ones who get all of the blame when they do not. This is role that Karly has accepted and embraced.
From the success the standpoint, Karly leaves Hahnville as one of its most decorated pitchers. She is our career leader in wins by a pitcher and ERA. She is one of two Hahnville pitchers to lead her team to multiple appearances in the State Tournament and she has set the standard for work ethic amongst pitchers. Karly approaches pitching as a seven day a week/365 day a year job. In fact, the toughest part about coaching Karly has been making sure she doesn’t overdo it in practices.
As a coach, you can always judge the mental toughness of a team by the mental toughness of their pitcher. This is typically not revealed during those times of success but more so during those times when eyes are on them and things are going poorly. Although she had very few of them, these are the moments where Karly Taranto proved why she is one of our state’s best. After rough innings, Karly never blamed her defense or her hitters or an umpire. She always came back to the dugout looking for feedback on what she could have done better. If her defense made a mistake behind her, she was the first one lending an encouraging word. I specifically remember playing a big road game at Sam Houston early in her Sophomore year and an outfielder dropped a fly ball that costs us an early lead. Before anyone could utter a word after the inning, it was Karly telling her teammate not to worry about and to just pick us up with her next at bat, which she did. I could go on and on. Win or lose, Karly was always the one waiting at the end of the handshake line to thank everyone of her teammates for their efforts.— A true leader.
Karly never made excuses or pointed fingers. She always used setbacks as motivation. In her junior season, we were eliminated from the State Quarterfinals with a bad loss to Alexandria. I remember in her exit meeting telling me that this was never going to let this happen to her team again. Boy was she correct. She dedicated the next year of her life to doing everything possible to physically and mentally prepare herself to pitch in the state tournament and win. The results speak for themselves. She earned a school record 33 wins and led her team to the state finals. In St. Charles Parish Public schools we speak a lot about the importance of being reflective practitioners. It was Karly’s Taranto’s reflectiveness and selflessness that put her team over the top and got us to the State Finals this year. NW FLA STATE is getting themselves a true team player and a true gamer.
To those points, Karly I want you to know it’s an honor to know you, it’s been a rare privilege to have coached you and Hahnville is forever grateful to have had you represent us.”