First place at stake in District 4-4A

The DeRidder Dragons are all grown up now. The St. Louis Saints have recovered their early season mojo. The teams meet this afternoon with sole possession of first place in District 4-4A on the line.

First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m. at Legion Field.

DeRidder (16-6, 3-0) has won six of its last seven and handed Beau Chene its first district loss Tuesday with a 6-2 road win. The Dragons have surpassed their win total from last season, when they went 12-21.

DeRidder head coach Chad Menard said the Dragons have stopped hurting themselves.

“We have stopped giving the other team freebies — walks, hit batters, errors — so now our pitchers don’t have to make as many outs,” he said. “Offensively, we do not strike out as much and are able to put more pressure on the defense.”

The Dragons start six seniors and three juniors.

“That is definitely a huge factor,” Menard said. “We are very mature when we take the field. We don’t get startled. When adversity arises, we know how to handle it. This game will keep you humble. There will be situations that arise where you fail. You have to continue to play hard for a complete game. We play hard now, we continue to compete regardless of the score or situation.”

St. Louis (16-7, 4-0) started the season with eight straight wins, then lost seven of nine but has won six straight. Five of the six wins have been shutouts.

“We just got back to working on things we do well, not worrying about scouting reports or anything,” said Saints head coach Chad Hebert. “We play a lot of small ball, hit and run. We do the all the little things well, take extra bases when we can. We don’t have a lot of power in our lineup.”

Hebert said the Saints have several good options on the mound.

“Brant McNease, Garrett Harless and Michael Eccles have gotten us through the tough games and we hope they can continue to do that for us. (DeRidder) plays hard, is well-coached. They were junior-heavy last year, now those guys are seniors. They have played a tough schedule and gotten some nice wins. I have a lot of respect for them.”