Spring is in the air.
The days may be getting longer, but time is short for the 2016-17 high school sports season in general, and for the final championship tournaments, in particular.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA “Fast Pitch 96” softball tournament is just two weeks away, and the City of Sulphur and Frasch Park’s eight softball fields are bracing for the onslaught of humanity that separate playoffs will bring, beginning April 27.
Following that weekend will be the three-day outdoor state track and field meets at LSU’s Bernie Moore Stadium (May 4-6). Then it’s back to Sulphur for the separate baseball tournaments at McMurry Park from May 10-13.
And to add to the frenzy, throw in the state tennis and golf tournaments. If coaches, athletic directors and those who report the news survive, everyone can exhale for a few weeks before looking toward the next football season with new faces and new names to learn.
It’s a never-ending parade of sports that helps fill the few voids in our lives.
One of the new features we presented in the sports pages of the Clarion Herald included the Elite teams of the decades, which covered the years 1997 through 2016 (my two decades of serving as sports editor).
The baseball teams, appearing in this issue, and softball teams, in the subsequent edition, will conclude the presentation and, hopefully, will have brought back memories of those outstanding Catholic school athletes who we enjoyed watching.
The final countdown
The district track and field championships are just about a week away, and although the best local Catholic school athletes should leave Baton Rouge with medals for finishing among the top three places, it will be difficult for one of the archdiocesan schools to take home a team trophy.
The reason is simple: So far not one principal has proposed separate championship meets for “select” and “non-select” schools. If that came to pass, you could expect the volunteers at LSU to boycott the event.
For the first time in LHSAA history, there will be two sets of championship tournaments in softball and baseball.
The non-public schools have been placed in different brackets from the publics.
What does that mean?
Mount Carmel will have an opportunity to win its first softball title since 2008, when Meghan Patterson worked through an unforgettable 11 innings of near-perfect pitching to beat Pineville, 1-0.
Ironically, No. 13 seed Pineville eliminated No. 4 Mount Carmel in the second round of the 2016 playoffs.
Evangel (22-5) will probably enter the playoffs as the top seed in Division I. Mount Carmel is the likely No. 2 seed in a small grouping of eight teams.
Two other teams that could make it to the softball finals are Archbishop Hannan (21-6 record) and St. Charles Catholic (22-3) in Division III.
Although Calvary Baptist (19-3) and Notre Dame (18-2) are the top two seeds, Hannan and St. Charles have been to Sulphur many times before, thanks to the superb coaching of Becky Lambert and Ty Monica, respectively.
Since the LHSAA began seeding teams in 2008, Lambert has coached the Lady Hawks to Class 1A titles in 2012 and 2013 and was runner-up in 2012.
More recently, Hannan has made it to the semifinal round twice and quarterfinals once.
Monica coached St. Charles to the Class 3A championship in 2008 and runner-up position in 2010. Since then, the Lady Comets have appeared in the quarterfinal round four times.
Both will compete in Division III. Just one can win it.
Ron Brocato can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.