RUSTON -- Despite Ruston’s furious comeback attempt late, Denham Springs High staved off the Lady Bearcats for 7-5 Monday in a Class 5A bi-district playoff game.
The victory was the Yellow Jackets’ first postseason victory since 2015 and sends No. 21 seed into the regional round against the winner of a Tuesday game between No. 5 seed Mandeville and No. 28 Haughton.
Ruston (18-12) made DSHS (13-17) sweat with three runs in the bottom of the 7th inning, which made the Jackets’ two-run top of the frame loom large.
Ultimately, a big Denham inning early, Lady Bearcats’ errors and a slow offensive start did Ruston in.
DSHS (13-17) started off burning hot from the plate in the top of the 2nd inning, scoring the first four runs of the game with two outs. After Colin Macias walked to extend the inning, the Jackets’ scoring onslaught began when outfielder Camille Berthelot grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring one run, and an error at third made the score 2-0. Paige Luquette’s two-run triple followed for a 4-0 cushion.
From then on, the Jackets had the upper hand and forced Ruston to play behind the 8-ball.
Another key component to Denham’s victory was the bounce-back ability of junior pitcher Natalie Parker, who was taken off of the mound in the bottom of the 5th inning, but responded with a two-run home run in the top of the 7th inning, which stretched her team’s lead to 7-2.
DSHS coach Leslie Efferson-Yellott was pleased with her pitching ace’s performance.
“There was a time (earlier in her career) where that kid would’ve shut down,” Efferson-Yellott said. “But she didn’t shut down for one second. Not for one pitch, not for one inning, not for one moment of that game. She kept fighting for everything. And now looking back at the score that home run is huge. It’s huge. I’m incredibly proud of her. It’s the potential that the coaches and I know she has in her.”
After struggling late in the 5th inning Parker was relieved by Layne Miley, who got two clutch outs to end that frame with the bases loaded.
After Miley and senior pitcher Melody Lienemann allowed three runs in the 6th and 7th innings to make it 7-5, Parker came back in to finish what she started, and got two game-clinching outs to end the game.
“I was very confident in myself and that’s something that I had struggled with lately,” Parker said. “So I just came in this game and I told myself I was going to do whatever it took to win. (Coach Efferson-Yellott) pushes me to be confident in myself and to believe in myself all the time, and I’m just very thankful for her pushing me.”
Other primary contributors for the Jackets included Madison Wolverton, who was 2-for-3 with a walk and made a miraculous catch off of a failed bunt that led to a double play in the 2nd inning. Luquette had a good day at the plate with two RBIs on the triple.
“When (we) play together, we’re hard to beat,” Efferson-Yellott said. “We’ve had our ups and downs and we’ve had our times where the chemistry hasn’t been there as a unit, and we made a commitment to change that. You’ve got to have a team that fights like a family to win in this type of setting on this stage. So our goal was to play for each other, and I think we did that very well.
“We’re trying to focus on the fact that this is really just the first game of our new season. Nothing before now has mattered, and we can’t look at it as we don’t want to lose game because this could be our last. We look at it as our first opportunity to advance to the State Tournament.”
DSHS 7, RUSTON 5
DSHS 040 001 2 -- 7 6 2
Ruston 010 100 3 -- 5 11 2
Natalie Parker, Layne Miley (6), Melody Lienemann (7), Parker (7) and Karlie Galloway; Harlie Robinson and Mallory Goss. W – Parker. L – Robinson. 2B: DSHS – Friedman, Zoie Sedberry; Ruston – Goss, Emma Shively. 3B: DSHS – Paige Luquette. HR: DSHS – Parker; Ruston – Addison Pullen. Records: DSHS 13-17, Ruston 18-13. Up next: Class 5A regional playoff – DSHS vs. Mandeville/Hahnville winner, time and day TBD.