It’s become an all too achingly familiar outcome for the Lutcher Lady Bulldogs.
For the second year in a row, Lutcher jumped out to an early lead in the Class 4A softball quarterfinals against perennial champion North DeSoto. This time, the Lady Bulldogs led 3-0 after one inning before eventually falling 5-4 to the Lady Griffins.
Lutcher was eliminated by the Lady Griffins 6-5 a year ago after jumping out to a 4-0 lead.
“We lost a heartbreaker to them last year by one run. It was like history repeating itself. It was another heartbreaker for us,” said Lutcher coach Cathy Bland.
“We got down really quick. Poor Lutcher, they are just a quality team and last year we played them in the quarters and we got down 4-0 to them last year. I think our girls remembered that and they never quit. They (the Lady Griffins) are just good ole country girls that never quit,” North DeSoto coach Lori McFarren said.
It was a one-run game that endured two weather delays. Rain, strong winds and ominous skies caused a delay of about 20 minutes in the middle of the first inning and nine minutes in the fifth inning.
Second-seeded North DeSoto was trailing 3-0 in the top of the fifth inning when Sheridin Loe hit a leadoff home run as it began to drizzle. After a walk issued to Laken Martin by Lutcher freshman Allie Bland and a bunt single by Amber Giddens, Bland struck out Draydin Ferguson, Bailey McMillian, belted a double to left center to score Martin to tie the game just as the rain began to pour, leading to another delay.
When the teams returned to the field, they were greeted by a huge rainbow that seemed to serve a good-luck charm for the Lady Griffins.
As soon as the game resumed, Whitley Martin hit a liner to short left field. Lutcher left fielder Evyn Vicknair raced in to try and make the catch but the ball got past her, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
“She typically makes that play nine out of 10 times. I think she was a little upset because she stopped,” Bland said of Vicknair’s effort.
“It seemed like right before that second rain, they got a little momentum before that and I think they settled down after they went inside. They were really upbeat. That was kind of a breath of fresh air for them and instead of cooling down, they came back out fired up,” said McFarren.
Lutcher, the No. 10 seed, quickly regained the lead in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Leadoff hitter Maria Detillier led off the inning with a triple to center field and Vicknair followed with a sacrifice fly to put Lutcher back on top, this time at 4-3.
The lead proved to be a momentary one. After Britlyn Garrett led off the sixth inning with a walk, Hutchins blasted a towering home run to left field go give North DeSoto a 5-4 lead.
“Lexi hits the ball hard. When he gets a hold of one, it’s like a grown man hitting it. She just hits it a country mile,” said McFarren.
The Lady Bulldogs had one last chance in the bottom of the seventh.
Bland led off and appeared she would be tossed out at first base on a grounder but the throw to first base by Garrett pulled the North DeSoto first baseman off the bag.
Bland advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Ashlyn St. Pierre and to third on a Detillier ground out.
Down to Lutcher’s final at-bat, Vicknair ran the count to 3-2 and followed off several pitches. She hit a low, sharp liner to Garrett, who managed to catch the line drive only inches above the turf for the final out of the game.
“One swing of the bat is all we needed. She (Vicknair) swung a hell of a bat that last at-bat and the girl (Garrett) just made a great play. I truly believe if the ball gets through, she’s sitting at third base with a triple and the game’s tied with my three-hole hitter up,” said Bland.
“They are a really good team and that baby on the mound is just a freshman,” said McFarren of Allie Bland, the daughter of the Lutcher coach. “I was very, very, very impressed because in this situation, I have older girls. In that situation, for that girl to come out and fight like that over and over again, I was really impressed with her and her teammates. My hat’s off to how hard they fought.”
The start of the game seemed like a Detillier highlight reel both on defense and on the bases.
North Desoto seemed to be mounting a serious threat in the top of the first inning when a leadoff hit by McMillian and a bunt single by Martin put runners on second and first. After a flyout by Taylor Christian, Garrett belted a shot to right center that seemed destined to drop for extra bases. Instead, Detillier, the Lutcher right fielder, chased down the ball. McMillian, anticipating the ball would drop in for a hit, took off from second base. She rounded third before realizing the ball had been caught and was easily doubled up on a throw to second base for the force out to end the inning.
Now, it was Detillier’s turn on the offensive side.
Leading off for Lutcher, Detillier hit a hard shot back to McMillian, the DeSoto pitcher. McMillian’s hurried throw to Hutchins, the Lady Griffins’ first baseman, was off the mark. Detillier raced all the way around the diamond to score an give the Lady Bulldogs a quick 1-0 lead.
“She makes a lot of things happen. She’s a freshman. She’s typically been an infielder her entire life and knowing her speed and the type of player she is, I had to move her to the outfield this year to give us some help in the outfield,” Bland said of Detillier.
With one out, the Lady Bulldogs came up with a pair of singles by Kristen Poche and Jayden Daal before the game went to its first weather delay.
When play resumed, a misplayed ball to left field allowed Poche to score. Lutcher added another run to make it 3-0 after one inning.
By rallying to win, the Lady Griffins gave their coach at least one more game.
McFadden, who guided North Desoto (27-7) to state championships in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a one-run semifinal loss a year ago, plans to retire after the season.
Lutcher (16-16) also has made deep playoff runs, including reaching Sulphur, the site of the state championships, but come up just a bit short.
Featuring a team that starts three freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors, the resolve of the Lady Bulldogs just grows stronger.
“We are knocking on the door, knocking on the door. We are just hungry to win one,” said Bland.