Leaning on experience, senior-laden team back to lead St. Louis

Published 2:00 pm Saturday, February 3, 2024

St. Louis Catholic’s last senior class helped propel the Saints to a state championship and two semifinal appearances.

First-year head coach Connor Lloyd said he’s looking to this year’s 11-member senior class to keep the Saints’ among the state’s top high school baseball programs.

“I think three of them are returning everyday starters from last year, and the rest of them have been chomping at the bit for a while, playing some JV baseball and waiting for their opportunity,” Lloyd said. “Last year’s class was a really special group.

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“I am very fortunate that I didn’t come into a situation where I am having to turn around a program. I inherited a pretty good program with a lot of tradition. Coach (Matt) Fontenot and the staff did a really good job.

“They are phenomenal kids and they work really hard. They have really surprised me with their work ethic and just being able to compete.”

The Saints lost a pair of Louisiana Tech signees in all-state catcher Jake LaRocca and first baseman Reid Snider, plus infielder James Reina, who plays

for Bossier Parish Community College. St. Louis went 27-7 and lost to Vandebilt Catholic in the semifinals for a second consecutive season in 2023.

Senior right-handed pitcher Kemonni Pullard, and LSU-Eunice signee, will be the Saints’ ace on the mound and likely leadoff hitter. Pullard, who made the American Press All-Southwest Louisiana Big Schools team last season, hit .400 with 10 doubles, and 35 RBIs and went 9-0 on the mound with a 1.48 earned run average and 72 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.

“He is a strike thrower,” Lloyd said. “He will run it up to 87 (mph) at times. He is not just a hard thrower. He can really spin the breaking ball, and he holds runners well. He keeps a good tempo and he fields his position. He is a true ace on the mound, and we are fortunate to have him if we can keep him healthy.

“He is going to hit at the top of our order, so it is going to rely heavily on his success.

“He has some guys around him that can pick up the slack if he is not getting it done. It is not a one-man show, but he is definitely going to be our go-to guy. And he has a lot of experience. That is going to be key, especially in those tough moments or moments of adversity. He is going to know how to respond to it, and guys are going to be looking up to him to see how he responds.”

Three of the four in the starting rotation are seniors, but Lloyd said he is working on roles for each. Ryder Devall pitched 22 1/3 innings last season, but junior Brecken Bordelon had 7 2/3 innings, and senior lefty Talon Tourelle sat out last season after transferring from De La Salle.

“We need to establish pitching roles,” Lloyd said. “I think that we are going to be able to play pretty good defense.

“We have a little bit of depth in the outfield and we have enough guys that we can trust on the infield that when infielders are pitching it shouldn’t be a huge drop-off. It will just be establishing roles on the mound. We have guys that can throw strikes and multiple pitches. We have guys with good stuff and a good breaking ball. It is finding out where everyone’s talents and personalities fit best.”

While Lloyd said the Saints’ offense will rely more on speed and base stealing this year, senior Kennedy Leggett, who pledged to Coastal Alabama Community College, will bring power to the lineup after hitting six home runs in 2023 with 36 RBIs and a .347 average.

“I think we are going to have a scrappy offense,” Lloyd said. “We have a little bit of team speed.

“We have some guys that can swing it with the ability to put the ball in play and move the offense. They can bunt really well. I like all that stuff about our offense. I think we are going to be able to score runs, but it may not look like the offense they have had in the past when they have been able to hit it out of the ballpark a little bit. It will be fun. We have some guys with some team speed, and they have a little feel on the bases, so it is good.”

Other senior starters include Ethan Posch behind the plate, Blaide Navarre at first base, Ryder Devall at second, Carter Kramer at third and Silas Deville and Zach Buxton in the outfield.

“We have so many guys that can do things well,” Lloyd said. “Silas Deville is a good running and scrappy player. He is very high contact at the plate. Ryder Devall is another guy who can run a bit, can bunt and has a little juice in the bat.

“Zach Buxton is really aggressive at the plate. He is a really good runner. Obviously, Kennedy Leggett is a guy who can change a game with one swing. He has a lot of varsity at-bats. He will be a big piece of the puzzle.”

Leggett (20) is one of three returning players with at least 11 stolen bases along with Pullard (11) and shortstop Brecken Bordelon (12).