(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 9:23 AM
The Lake Charles area hit the trifecta in Class 5A baseball with all three local teams qualifying for the state tournament. Barbe will be looking to defend its title, while Sulphur will be making its first appearance since 2005. Sam Houston will be making its 5A state tournament debut, but reached the 4A tournament in 2010.
All three teams will be in action today during the quarterfinal round at Turchin Stadium on the Tulane University campus in New Orleans.
Sulphur will play the 10 a.m. opener versus Catholic-Baton Rouge at 10 a.m., followed by Barbe vs. West Monroe at 1 p.m. Sam Houston will face Brother Martin in the nightcap at 7 p.m.
The three neighbors were among five District 3-5A teams seeded in the top 13 for the playoffs. Four teams from the district won a playoff game.
“Acadiana barely lost (1-0 to Jesuit), Comeaux lost to Sam Houston (3-2), it shows you how much parity there is,” said Barbe head coach Glenn Cecchini.
“Lafayette had a lot of guys out and they barely lost, they usually are at the tournament every year. It is an unbelievable district, it is tough, it really prepares you. Every team can beat every team.”
Sam Houston head coach Brad Book said the parity made the district season an enjoyable one.
“It’s a great district, it’s fun and competitive,” Book said. “I think it prepares you to win in the playoffs, the only difference is in district you get a day off between games.”
Sulphur head coach Jason Trahan said the district opposition presented the kind of quality pitching the Tors will see in New Orleans.
“All the way through our district, facing the guys we faced, I told our guys we have been in the playoffs for the last month,” Trahan said. “It shows with three in the tournament, five in the top 13. I feel like that has prepared us; we are not going to face anybody better than what we’ve seen. I feel like we have as good a shot as anybody.”
The Bucs enter as the top seed, winner of their last 11 games and ranked 19th in the USA Today national poll. The Bucs shut out the Rebels twice in the regular season, winning 5-0 in the season opener in Shreveport and 4-0 March 8 in Lake Charles.
The Bucs are in the state tournament for the seventh consecutive year and are looking for their seventh state championship.
Barbe (33-3) is led on the mound by Sloan Dieter, who pitched a one-hitter and homered in the regional-round win over Covington. Other options for the Bucs include Gunner Leger, the starter in last year’s championship game, Alex Bel, Trevor Beaubouef and Erin Baldwin. The offense is led by shortstop Kennon Fontenot, left fielder Beau Jordan, who has homered in both playoff games, and Dieter, who also plays first base.
A familiar face will be in the West Monroe (23-12) dugout. Rebels head coach Ross Blankenship led St. Louis to a Class 4A title in 2011.
“We both know each other pretty well,” Blankenship said. “It is two programs that mirror one another as far as both teams will compete hard, give it everything they got, will not back down. We have a history with them in baseball and football; it is a great rivalry. I look for an exciting, close game. They play really hard, they don’t make many mistakes. They are a hard-nosed kid. (Rebels outfielder) Cade Stone is great, an LSU signee. They have a lot of good kids as always.”
Cecchini said he has plenty of options on the mound.
“We have depth, five guys that are all solid, all have pitched big games,” he said. “I think that is one of our advantages. We have righties and lefties, we have power and finesse. We have strike-throwers. Dieter and Baldwin walk less than one per game.”
Sam Houston (25-9), in its second year in 5A, earned a trip to New Orleans behind pitcher Collin Kober, who has pitched two complete games in the postseason, allowing two runs.
“It feels great; it is awesome for these kids,” Book said. “The last times the seniors were part of a state tournament they were freshmen. If you want to win state championships, you have to keep getting there. We had some rough spots during the season whether it was pitching well but not hitting or playing good defense, or hitting but without great pitching, but we have managed to be good at all three. We are playing really well defensively.”
Book said the Broncos have plenty of options on the mound aside from Kober.
“We have Peyton McLemore (4-2, 2.00 ERA) who has been really good, Kelsey Richard, Kameron Esthay, who was an all-state pitcher last year” said Book, “and Austin Gordon, who has made 13 appearances out of the bullpen with an ERA just above one.”
Esthay, a Baylor signee, doubles as a first baseman.
The Broncos will face the lone local team in the tournament in Brother Martin (30-5).
“I haven’t seen them play, but we played them in 2009, we won 17-15,” Book said. “It was a fun game, we swung the heck out of it and they did, too. They were a classy team. From what I am hearing they swing it extremely well this year too.”
Sulphur (24-11) used a rare display of power in its 7-4 regional-round win over Ruston. Cole Lavergne blasted two homers and drove five runs in the game. The homers were only the second and third of the season for the Tors — all by Lavergne. Like Sam Houston, Sulphur has ridden its ace, sophomore Kale Breaux, to New Orleans. Breaux has allowed five runs in two complete games.
“That was very uncharacteristic of us, but it was a good thing,” Trahan said of the power display in Ruston. “The one in the sixth (a three-run homer) was huge for us because of the timing.
“It feels great to be at the tournament, the kids are excited and confident after Monday. We beat a very good Ruston team, a good-hitting team, and we beat their No. 1 pitcher, who was pretty good.”
Trahan said he is not expecting more offensive fireworks.
“Defense and pitching, that has won the majority of the tough games for us, the big games for us,” he said. “Offensively, we try to do enough to win. If we get any more than that it is a bonus.”
Lavergne, Breaux, Charlie Dronet and Andrew Martin will handle most of the pitching duties for the Tors. The quartet combined for a nine-inning shutout of Barbe earlier this season.
“We are very confident in Lavergne. Cole keeps ball down in zone, gets ground balls,” Trahan said. “Dronet is the same as Cole, has kind of a three-quarter delivery, gets good movement on his fastball, always works down in the strike zone. Martin, when he is hitting spots, has a lot of movement, a changeup that tails away from right-handers.”
The Tors will be looking for a measure of revenge against Catholic (23-13), which knocked them out of the playoffs in the first round last year, winning 6-2 in Sulphur.
“It was tied 2-2 going into the sixth, we made an error that hurt us, and they had one big hit,” Trahan said. “It left a sour taste in our mouth, but not any bad blood. Coach (Brad) Bass has become a good friend. They play hard and are classy. It is going to be competitive. They play hard and are well-coached. They know what to do and play with a passion.”
No. 21 Catholic-Baton Rouge (23-13) vs. No. 13 Sulphur (24-11), 11 a.m.
No. 1 Barbe (33-3) vs. No. 9 West Monroe (23-12), 2 p.m.
No. 10 Zachary (25-11) vs. No. 18 St. Amant (26-9), 5 p.m.
No. 3 Brother Martin (30-5) vs. No. 6 Sam Houston (25-9), 8 p.m.
Catholic-Baton Rouge-Sulphur winner vs. Barbe-West Monroe winner, 11 a.m.
Zachary-St. Amant winner vs. Brother Martin-Sam Houston winner, 2 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.
No. 1 St. Thomas More (28-4) vs. No. 4 Teurlings Catholic (25-7), 7 p.m. (Field 41)
No. 6 Tioga (27-9) vs. No. 2 Lutcher (27-4), 4 p.m. (Field 41)
St. Thomas More-Teurlings Catholic winner vs. Tioga-Lutcher winner, 4 p.m. (Field 41)
No. 1 North DeSoto (28-4) vs. No. 5 Parkview Baptist (18-17), 10 a.m. (Field 41)
No. 11 Brusly (26-7) vs. No. 2 E.D. White (27-4), 1 p.m. (Field 41)
North DeSoto-Parkview Baptist winner vs. Brusly-E.D. White winner, 1 p.m. (Field 41)
No. 1 Calvary Baptist (23-3) vs. No. 4 University (28-6), 1 p.m.
No. 3 Evangel Christian (20-10) vs No. 14 Kinder (22-11), 10 a.m.
Calvary Baptist-University winner vs. Evangel Christian-Kinder winner, 1 p.m.
No. 1 Ouachita Christian (30-5) vs. No. 5 Central Catholic (23-7), 7 p.m.
No. 6 St. John (28-6) vs. No. 2 Mangham (26-8), 4 p.m.
Ouachita Christian-Central Catholic winner vs. St. John-Mangham winner, 4 p.m.
No. 16 Simpson (12-18) vs. No. 12 Hicks (22-8), 7 p.m., (Field 40)
No. 11 Hornbeck (20-13) vs. No. 2 Forest (24-8), 4 p.m., (Field 40)
Simpson-Hicks winner vs. Hornbeck-Forest winner, 3 p.m. (Field 40)
No. 1 Family Christian (24-4) vs. No. 4 Maurepas (16-11), 10 a.m., (Field 40)
No. 3 Claiborne Christian (11-18) vs. No. 2 Elizabeth (24-4), 1 p.m., (Field 40)
Family Christian-Maurepas winner vs. Claiborne Christian-Elizabeth winner, noon (Field 40)