It’s an exciting week in the local sports scene. A college softball tournament is coming to our area, with a pair of Power Five schools along for the ride.
“I saw one of the girls earlier in the training room, and she goes, ‘Coach Molly, can we just skip practice and go straight to the games?'” And, I’m like, ‘Alright, calm down. We’ll get there, ” says ULM head softball coach Molly Fichtner.
After 11 months away, due to our pandemic, ULM and every softball team in the country is finally there!
“I was actually joking to the staff, ‘Oh gosh! Do I remember how to write a line up on the line up card?’ You know, because it’s been so long, ” Fichtner continues.
But, fear not softball fanatics! The collegiate season begins Thursday in Northeast Louisiana. The “Best of the Bayou” softball classic brings a half-dozen teams to the new East Ouachita Sports Complex, located at 520 Lincoln Hills Drive in Monroe.
“It wasn’t but excitement from our whole place here, ” says Clay LeBeff, the coordinator for the East Ouachita Sports Complex. “Not only are we able to get some big schools in here, and work with the university, but also it’s allowing us to introduce our new park to everyone.”
Those big schools? Arkansas, and Oklahoma State. An invite was sent to the Warhawks’ bitter rivals, Louisiana Tech. Coach Fichtner knows the area’s huge appetite for softball.
“When everything got shut down for COVID, I was just dying for some softball, ” says Fichtner. “I ended up going to the little leagues and watching the six-year olds play the seven-year olds. I got to be able to get those relationships and really see how much this town loves softball.”
Tickets to the event can be purchased on site. They’re $10 for the day, and $25 for the weekend. But, if you ask Gene Crain, money can’t buy the experience you’ll have watching high quality action this weekend.
“Those viewing decks that we have on top, you can watch four games at one time, ” says Gene Crain, Executive Director of the East Ouachita Sports Complex. “You’re right there, and you’re close enough from that. Pod covered bleachers and the batting cages and some of the things we put in there it’s going to be really nice. Something that the folks are coming here are really going to enjoy.”
UPDATE: The “Best of the Bayou” softball classic will now begin on Thursday, according to East Ouachita Sports Complex officials. This is due to bad weather expected on Sunday. Arkansas vs. Oklahoma State will take place Thursday at 3:00, followed by Louisiana Tech vs. ULM at 5:00.