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After success in basketball and a title in football, Kinder is back for more on the diamond. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

After success in basketball and a title in football, Kinder is back for more on the diamond. (Rick Hickman / American Press)

Kinder back for more on baseball diamond

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 12:26 PM

By Rhett Manuel / American Press

KINDER — It’s been quite a calendar year for the Kinder Yellow Jackets athletic program.

After making the semifinals in baseball last season, its football team followed that up by winning the Class 2A non-select championship in December.

Many of the players instrumental in both those runs are back for another go at a state baseball championship this spring, trying to finish what they started on the diamond.

The ‘Jackets are off to a good start, having won six of their last seven games and sit at 11-5 overall as they open District 4-2A play today against Mamou.

Much of that winning attitude cultivated began in last season’s baseball run. Something of an unknown quantity because of its young team, a No. 15-seeded Kinder made an unexpected run to the state tournament in Monroe where it lost to Evangel 1-0 in the state semifinals. That loss served as part of a bigger learning experience.

“Our success last spring carried over to what we did in the fall,” Kinder head baseball coach Kenney Courville said. “And naturally, what happened in the fall will carry over to the spring. It’s a tribute to our kids. They’re fighters and tremendous competitors. They’re not really afraid of a whole lot of things.”

It’s nothing unusual for small schools to share athletes across sports. But at Kinder, it’s magnified. Austin Pickle — the quarterback of the state championship football team — moonlights at four different positions for the Yellow Jackets’ baseball team. Other instrumental athletes, like Welles Cooley, Kade Andrews, Bryce Baker and D.C. Arceneaux, all hold down key roles on the baseball team while being starters in football. Baker was District 4-2A’s defensive MVP last season.

It’s the sort of dynamic that bleeds into spring football. Kinder was only able to get in five spring practices last year and head coach Bret Fuselier doesn’t expect to be able to start this season’s spring practices until May because of baseball.

“That’s one of the things we preach here at Kinder among the sports. We’re a small school. We have to share athletes; that’s what we do,” Courville said. “That’s why its easy for one coach to pull for another sport. As long as we’re competing in one sport it’ll help us in the next sport. That’s a big thing here that we preach. We want them to play as many sports as possible.”

But the benefit of sharing those athletes is the exposure to big environments. While the ‘Jackets baseball team would be no stranger to the state tournament if it were to make it back this season, the experience of playing in the Superdome only helps.

“It helped us because we got used to playing on the big stage in a high-pressure situation,” Pickle said.

No doubt after baseball’s close calls and football’s championship all eyes will be on the Yellow Jackets.

“The expectations are huge. That’s one of the things we knew coming in was that we took people by surprise last year because we were so young,” Courville said.

“We won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this year.”

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