(32) Slidell at (1) West Monroe Softball - Rd. 1 Playoffs

Round 1 playoff game played at Mangham Field, April 19, 2021. Photo by TOM MORRIS/The Ouachita Citizen.

There was never a doubt. Not really.

Playing a district rival in the quarterfinals amid late location changes and other game details that were, let’s just say, frustrating for a visiting No. 1 seed West Monroe Lady Rebels only made a 17-0 result that much sweeter. 

The minute the team got on the bus, West Monroe head coach Amy Daigle and her assistants knew. It was going to be a good day.

“It was just business as usual,” Daigle said. “They swung the bat well in warmups, and it was just a feeling that we, as a coaching staff, had. And then the first inning happened…”

West Monroe softball fans can go ahead and iron out those state tournament plans because that’s where they’ll find those Lady Rebels later this week.

West Monroe secured its travel to Sulphur for a 3 p.m. Class 5A semifinal showdown with No. 5 Airline this Friday after pummeling No. 9 Natchitoches Central, 17-0, Saturday. It marks West Monroe’s first appearance in the semifinals since 1999.

“It’s been quite a drought,” Daigle said. “Quarterfinals has been the monkey we could not get off of our back. However frustrating it’s been this last year, (winning the quarterfinal game) made it all worthwhile. We all know that we had this possibility last year but didn’t get the chance to play it.”

What’s made the moment even sweeter has been the outpouring from the community. From random bus drivers to fans out of state, Daigle has had numerous encounters with Lady Rebel fans that have tried to follow this journey.

“One of the bus drivers that parks their bus in front of our field came up to me the other day, and his plans were to come to (the Natchitoches Central) game,” Daigle said. “Unfortunately he told me that when we were originally playing at Many High School and had the late change in location, so I’m hoping he heard and got to make it. By the time it was changed, he was long gone. But yeah, he had no affiliation with the team. He was just a regular bus driver that got interested.”

The (30-2) Lady Rebels compiled 17 hits in the runaway four-inning victory. The No. 1 overall seed featured many impressive hitting performances in the quarterfinal win, including Mady Manning’s 4-for-4 day that featured two doubles.

Maddie Hayden and Maddie Nichols homered for West Monroe.

Maddie Nichols, who entered this contest with 29 strikeouts in the first two playoff games, was once again stellar inside the circle. Nichols held Natchitoches Central hitless and walked two batters in the lopsided victory. Nichols also added six more strikeouts to bring her postseason total to 35 in three contests.

As West Monroe heads to Sulphur looking for that storybook ending to the 2021 season, Daigle said she’s not thinking about her squad getting upset. Not one bit.

“This group of girls is unique,” Daigle said. “Not only is our lineup unique in that all nine kids are very difficult to get out, but they are a focused group. They have one goal in mind. They will do whatever it takes.”

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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