Story and Photos By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
Winning its first Division I softball championship couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for the seniors on the Dominican team and their head coach, Dawn Benoit.
The 5-3 victory over District 9-5A rival John Curtis was not only a crowning achievement for the team but also the swan song for Benoit, a 20-year veteran coach who will step aside.
Collecting state championships is nothing new to the Dominicans. They won their first in 1950, a basketball title, before other Catholic schools even joined the LHSAA.
But softball had eluded them. Dominican came close in 2018, when as a No. 4 seed, the team lost to Curtis, 7-5, in the championship game.
Even tougher to take was a 15-0 bashing by district rival Mount Carmel in the 2017 championship game.
Those days now behind, Dominican is the class of its division. The team culminated its finest season by winning 20-of-23 games and undisputedly won the Catholic League title with a team stocked with two juniors, 10 sophomores, two freshmen, three eighth graders and just two seniors, led by sophomore pitcher Elise Simon, who hurled the wins over Evangel (5-3) and Curtis.
Also on the day that Dominican made history, Archbishop Hannan claimed its third championship by upsetting two-time champion Parkview Baptist, 6-2.
The win for Coach Becky Lambert’s Hawks was their first in eight years since gaining the Class 1A trophies in back-to-back victories over Ascension Catholic, 10-4, in 2011 and Catholic of Pointe Coupee, 10-2, in 2012.
Lambert has taken her team to the massive tournament in Sulphur every year since 2009, a year after moving into their campus in Covington.
She quickly re-established the Hawks’ winning tradition. They were the 1A runners-up in 2013, played in semifinal rounds in 2016 as a Class 2A team and lost in the semifinals to St. Charles Catholic in 2018.
This year as the No. 2 seed, Hannan capped a 24-6 record by defeating St. Thomas More, 6-3, behind a three-run burst in the semifinal round’s fourth inning, then overcame a 2-1 deficit in the final inning to deny the defending champion Eagles a third title by scoring five runs.
Hannan was down to its last out when the Hawks staged that winning rally.
Like Dominican, returning from the Hawks’ 26-6 team will be 11 underclassmen when they play in 2020.