Nearly three years later, Notre Dame of Acadia Parish’s catcher Maci Bergeron is still without a compelling explanation.
Bergeron – the nation’s second-ranked prospect in Softball America’s Class of 2022 rankings – is an ardent fan of LSU athletics and more importantly the softball program. It’s hard to fathom that at one point she was actually lukewarm on the Tigers.
“Originally, I didn’t think that I would end up there,” Bergeron said of LSU. “I don’t know why, but I started going to football games and watched a lot of football games on TV and saw all of the fans and how much they care about the players. I saw how crazy it got in Tiger Stadium. That made me see that was something I really wanted to be a part of.”
So even at the impressionable age of 14, Bergeron rose to the occasion as an eighth-grader and delivered a commitment to LSU softball coach Beth Torina over interest from schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and UCLA.
“I feel it helps you mature when you have to think about things like that,” Bergeron said of her decision to choose LSU. “Coach Beth, coach (LSU assistant) Lindsay (Leftwich) and coach (LSU assistant) Howard (Dobson) make me feel like I’m at home. They made it a lot easier.
“I think that I’ve found my place, I don’t really want to go anywhere else. They feel like family to me, and I love the culture. It’s close to home and all of my family and friends can come watch me.”
Bergeron’s commitment has grown in strength as well as her stature as a player. The rising junior catcher was recently named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Louisiana after an abbreviated 2020 season because of the COVID-19 health scare.
“I didn’t expect that I was going to win it as a sophomore,” said Bergeron, who has 37 career homers in 46 games. “My mom came to wake me up that morning and told me. I was just shocked.”
Stunned in part, because one of the state’s top awards rarely winds up in the possession of a sophomore.
Surprised, because Notre Dame was only able to play in 14 games before the coronavirus halted the remainder of the season before the start of district play.
“I was having a really good season and then it just kind of ended,” Bergeron, who batted. 524 with 12 homers, 35 RBIs, 15 runs and threw out 85 percent of runners trying to steal. “I felt real bad for the people who were seniors. I can’t imagine what it’s like not having my senior year.”
The Lady Pios were working toward a successful defense of their 2019 Division III state championship. Bergeron, a 5-foot-5 power hitter, emerged on the high school level and helped her to team to a perfect 32-0 record.
Bergeron was voted first team All-State catcher, having batted .560 with 25 homers and 69 RBIs. She flourished during the state tournament, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in her team’s final game.
“I was just very lucky to be able to do that my freshman season with the team that we had,” Bergeron said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that way. But I’m very glad that it happened that way.”
Being part of team championships have long been woven into Bergeron’s DNA since the age of 10, having built a stellar reputation on the travel ball circuit winning two different national age-group titles with the Tennessee Mojo.
This summer’s play across the country has proved challenging since Notre Dame’s season was over in the mid-March.
Even without the daily grind of practices or games, Bergeron maintained her own workout routine. She lifted weights in a makeshift weight room in her family’s shop and continued to work on her swing in an indoor cage constructed in the garage.
“I tried to keep doing what I was doing before,” she said. “I couldn’t go to the gym to work out, so we made a little workout room in our shop. I was hitting in the same place, so nothing really changed drastically.”
Only her performance.
Bergeron admitted to experiencing a bit of a dip from the end of a sophomore season that was over sooner than usual, creating an absence of game repetitions and seeing live pitching until the Tennessee Mojo convened for the first of its three tournaments.
The Mojo have also played in Birmingham and Oklahoma City with an upcoming tournament in Atlanta.
“I was very excited to be able to get back out and play again, to be with my friends and teammates,” said Bergeron, who is tied for the No. 3 player nationally in the Class of 2022’s top player by extrainningsoftball.com. “You really don’t practice together. We just show up and play. We have to put in work on our own at home.
“My first tournament was kind of rough, you just have to get back into it. I did a lot better in my last couple of tournaments.”
Bergeron explained this summer’s softball pursuit has come with a different approach.
Because of the coronavirus and the uncertainty it created in fielding travel-ball teams, Bergeron believes her mindset has shifted from individual performance to team development.
“I don’t think this summer’s really about winning,” she said. “I think it’s about getting better as a team and for myself.”
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