French Settlement softball coach Blake West isn’t about to call his team’s shortened season a wasted one.
“I felt like we gained a lot of valuable experience,” West said. “Even though the season was short, we faced some good opponents – several parish opponents who are well-coached and some real good teams that I feel like gave our young squad a lot of valuable experience that will help us going into next season.”
The Lady Lions finished 4-7 in West’s second season as the team’s coach, starting the season 2-4 with losses to Holden, Loranger, Albany and Live Oak and wins over Loranger and Kenner Discovery.
“We tried to load up the schedule early, see where we’re at, play those tough opponents, get the valuable experience that we can and use it to benefit us later in the season,” West said. “I think another thing that kind of caught us off guard with the shutdown, we only had a full squad for what turned out to be the last week of the season.”
The FSHS girls basketball team advanced to state tournament before losing in the semifinals during the first week of March allowing the softball team to pick up three players.
“We were looking to turn the corner and really start making a run and a push toward (the) playoffs, and then what do you know – all this hits and the season shuts down on us and everybody,” West said.
The Lady Lions had five games in which they scored double-digit runs and also gave up double-digit runs in five games, losing all of those.
“I think a lot of it was we had some games where the offense looked really good – looked well,” West said. “But at the same time, we had some games where we had some defensive errors that really cost us, and we gave up a lot of unearned runs in some of those high-scoring games.”
FSHS also picked up an 11-2 win over Northlake Christian to open District 10-2A play, but the season ended before teams played another district game.
“It was good to get that district win early,” West said. “I felt like it definitely gave us some momentum to start district, and really at that point in the season, gave us some momentum. You just wish you could have seen how things would have turned out.”
The plus for the Lady Lions is both of the team’s top pitchers, sophomore Britney Melton and eighth-grader Emma Petite, will be back next season.
“I think it bodes very well for us,” West said. “We get Britney back next year as a junior. Emma only as a freshman. We’ve got a couple of other girls on the roster that can throw it that are young, very young. I think the pitching staff looks bright. It’s definitely a solid foundation that we have on the team.”
French Settlement lost two seniors off this season’s team – Carley Roddy and Sarah Petite, who will continue her playing career at Baton Rouge Community College.
“I feel not only for our two seniors at French Settlement, but for all the seniors,” West said. “Sarah and Carley both were having a great year – both of them hitting over .300. Both of them had a couple home runs on the season. Both of them, defense was good. They were leaders on the team.”
West is hoping his players can take what they’ve learned during the season that what shortened because of the novel coronavirus and apply it to the remainder of their playing careers.
“You preach to them ‘play every game like it’s your last. Leave it all on the field’, but you never really get a taste of that until something like this happens,” West said. “I feel like this is about as real as it can be. You come in and say, ‘play every game like it’s your last’, and my goodness, look at the seniors. In the second week of March, it was their last game, and who could have seen that coming?
“I think, or I at least hope something like this could have a very positive effect on the players’ outlook, if there can be a positive effect from it, of just don’t take the game for granted and enjoy every minute of it and leave everything on the field, because you just never know.”
The biggest thing West is hoping his team can gain heading into next season is some consistency.
“I feel like if we can find some consistency, and when we can find some consistency, we can put a lot these games in the win column, and I feel like a lot of it just goes back to the girls needing the experience – the young squad that we’ve had,” West said. “But I feel like next year, we’re still relatively young – two seniors on the roster, but we’ll have a heavy junior class. We’ll have a strong freshman class next year, and I feel like over this past year or two with the experience these girls have been getting that the consistency should be there.”