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High school softball: Airline headed to Sulphur after 5A quarterfinal victory over Walker

The Airline Lady Vikings are headed back to Sulphur.

Airline, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 4 Walker 3-0 in a Class 5A quarterfinal game Saturday night at Walker.

The Lady Vikings got another stellar performance from senior pitcher Raelin Chaffin, who pitched a one-hitter with a career-high 18 strikeouts. Walker is about 25 miles east of LSU where Chaffin will be playing her college ball.

Paris Endris smacked a leadoff home run to give Airline the 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth.

The Lady Vikings (19-5) will face No. 1 West Monroe (30-2), a 17-0 winner over No. 9 Natchitoches Central, in the semifinals Friday at 3 p.m. at Frasch Park in Sulphur, site of the LHSAA State Softball Tournament.

Airline opened the season with a 4-1 victory over West Monroe on Feb. 24.

Airline reached the state tournament two years ago, losing a heartbreaker to Barbe 7-6 in the semifinals. The Lady Vikings also made it to Sulphur in 2018 when quarterfinal games were held there too.

The state tournament wasn’t held last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barbe (29-2) is also returning to Sulphur. The No. 3 seed Lady Bucs defeated No. 6 Sam Houston 6-3 in the quarterfinals. They will face No. 7 Pineville (24-9), which knocked off No. 2 St. Amant 8-1.

Walker closed its season 27-5.

When the 2020 season was canceled, Airline was riding a 10-game winning streak.

That was Brittany Frazier Smith’s first season as head coach. In 2019, she was an assistant to Regina Digilormo.

“It means a lot,” Smith said of returning to the state tournament. “Last year was a big blow, not being able to go. That was the year we were just very confident that we were going to have a chance to win it all.”

Airline lost five starters to graduation off that team and has had to battle through some injuries this season.

“We’re just all very proud,” Smith said. “This team has shown a lot of grit and fight.”

The state tournament will be a family affair for Smith. Her sister, Tiffany Frazier Wood, is the head coach at Calvary Baptist and their dad, Greg, is an assistant. Calvary reached the Division IV semifinals with an 11-1 victory over Opelousas Catholic on Saturday.

The Airline-Walker game figured to be a pitchers’ duel between Chaffin and Walker star Lainee Bailey, who came into the contest 21-1.

After three scoreless innings, the Lady Vikings took the lead in the fourth.

“We put pressure on her pretty much in the first two innings, just couldn’t get anybody in,” Smith said. “We were finally able to break through.”

Makenzee Perry doubled and scored on a single by Chaffin. Jina Baffuto then doubled to score Kennedy Kerrigan, running for Chaffin.

Endris gave the Lady Vikings a little more breathing room with her homer to left-center.

With the way Chaffin was pitching, the three-run cushion was more than enough.

“She threw an amazing game,” Smith said. “They had one hit and they had one walk. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

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