Turning the corner … St. John softball reaches semifinals after six-year absence

Staff Report

A six-year drought has ended for the St. John softball program.

SJHS will return to the Ochsner/Louisiana High School Athletic Association Softball State Tournament after the Eagles edged St. Frederick 2-1 in quarterfinal action on April 22.

The St. John Eagle softball team celebrates after their 2-1 victory Friday over St. Frederick. The Eagles will return to the state semifinals Friday for the first time since 2016 when they face top-ranked Opelousas Catholic.

The No. 4-seeded Eagles (16-4) advanced to the semifinals, where they will face top-seeded Opelousas Catholic (25-5) at St. Julien Complex in Broussard. Opening pitch is 7 p.m. Friday.

OCHS advanced to the finals Saturday after a 5-1 win over perennial state contender Catholic-Pointe Coupee of New Roads.

St. John coach Cindy Prouty is no stranger to Opelousas Catholic and its reputation as one of the dominant forces in high school softball.

But she also believes her Eagles have the skill and experience to knock off their top-ranked foes who won 15 of their last 18 games.

“They are a talented team,” Prouty said. “If we can keep it close and give ourselves a chance, we can win.”

The Eagles need more than just a solid performance at the plate to stop a formidable foe such as Opelousas Catholic, she said.

“We will have to put a solid defensive game together to allow our offensive game an opportunity to get the job done,” Prouty said.

The winner of that game will face the victor in the showdown between No. 2 Calvary Baptist of Shreveport (20-12) and No. 3 Riverside Academy of LaPlace (27-6).

The tournament marks the first year after that the LHSAA has held separate state softball tournaments for select (private/parochial) and non-select (public) schools as part of the split instituted in 2012.

St. John needed one of its best defensive showings of the season to turn back St. Frederick in a game too close for either team’s comfort.

Winning pitcher Kyneligh Rhymer held their Monroe-based foes to six hits and struck out seven.

Rhymer sent back St. Frederick with a runner at first in the top of the fourth.

“We fought every way through,” Rhymer said. “We super hard to get here, and every out counted for us.”

Cassidy Canella’s two-run homer to center that brought home Kaylee Richard gave St. John the win. Richard led off with a single to left.

“We really turned the corner with this game, fought really hard and put on a show,” Canella said. “We had a lot of fans here today, but they also knew what had been in the past, so we did not want to let them down.”