Former Holden coach David Knight summed up Olivia Lackie's impact on his team fairly simply.
"It makes our job easy," he said.
The job of choosing Livingston Parish's top softball player may not have been easy for parish coaches, but Lackie's season was difficult to ignore.
The freshman pitcher, who helped the Lady Rockets to the Class B state championship this season, was selected at the All-Livingston Parish Player of the Year.
Knight, who stepped down as the Lady Rockets' coach in late May after guiding the team to the state title, was selected Coach of the Year by his parish peers.
Gisselle Ash of Live Oak was the Offensive Player of the Year, while Rayne Minor of Denham Springs High picked up Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Lackie, who went 26-1 during the Lady Rockets' 33-1 season, said her approach isn't complicated.
"My approach is kind of just to keep a positive mindset and try and hit my spots," she said. "That's pretty much it."
That mindset served her well: She allowed only 58 hits all season to go with 24 walks and six hit batters, most of which came against teams from higher classifications. The Lady Rockets' schedule featured teams from every classification except Class A.
Lackie struck out 18 batters in a 5-4 8-inning win over Class 5A semifinalist Live Oak in a game Knight scheduled to help his team prepare for the postseason. But LOHS coach Michelle Morris said facing Lackie was beneficial to her team also.
"We knew it was going to be a competitive ball game, and we look for another ball game like that in the future," Morris said. "She'll only get better from here. She moves the ball quite well, and we like to see pitching like that. We see that in 5A, so we like to see that when we're preparing for our district, and of course (District 4-5A) is one of the hardest around."
Pitching against schools in higher classifications didn't faze Lackie, who struck out 16 and went 4-for-4 in a 3-1 win over Zachary and also threw a no-hitter with 15 strikeouts in a 2-1 win over Class C champion Plainview.
"(Playing a team in a) higher in classification doesn't exactly change anything," said Lackie, who earned Outstanding Player honors in Holden's 6-1 championship game win over Stanley. "It's really the quality of the team. Really, I just try and focus in on my strengths and the team's strengths and hopefully we can be the better team."
Knight said one of Lackie's strength is her mental toughness, which was on display several times during the season, including a 2-1 extra-inning win over Class 4A state tournament team Grant.
"I remember Lackie told me, she said, 'Well ya'll just score a run. I'm not going to let them score,'" Knight said. "One thing about her, she was pretty cool up there. Not a lot rattled her, so it didn't matter if you had a runner at third or if you had 3-0 or whatever. You knew she could dig deep and get the job done. Very seldom did I see her fall apart -- I don't know that I ever saw her fall apart. She was just that consistent."
Lackie also got it done at the plate, compiling a .375 batting average.
"I think she''s been backing herself up with her own hitting too, so that's a great double-threat-type player," Morris said.
Lackie said she and her teammates were also motivated this season after losing in last season's championship game.
"That was definitely an eye opener for a lot of us," she said. "I think they finally realized that, 'Hey, we can actually do this. We just need to be pushed a little more.' So everyone just kind of buckled down this year and made it happen."
Lackie buckled down on opposing batters, racking up 383 strikeouts (294 swinging).
"As a coach, if you're not throwing strikes or you're throwing meatballs and people are knocking them all over, you cringe when they throw the ball," Knight said. "With her, you knew she was going to throw good stuff. You knew it was going to be hard. It was going to be something they weren't going to get a lot on."
The only blemish on the season for Lackie and the Lady Rockets was a 1-0 loss to Denham Springs High in which Lackie hurled a one-hitter and struck out 12.
And while she may have gotten the majority of the headlines during the season, Lackie said it was a team effort that resulted in Holden's first state softball title.
"We were a good team," she said. "We were all close. We all had a strong bond. We all kind of trusted in each other to back each other up and to make the plays behind us so no one person felt like the whole team was riding on them."
And with all but one player returning for the Lady Rockets next season, this could be the one of many accolades for Lackie and her teammates.
"This group of girls from Holden is going to be probably one of the top teams through their three more years anyway, because they've already laid the groundwork and they know what it takes to get there, and they've just got to be cool and do what they're supposed to do," Knight said.
"If they all stay together, they'll be solid for a long time."
Rob DeArmond is a sports writer for The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at Robdearm@gmail.com.
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