No shortage of talent for area 5A teams

The first round of area District 3-5A games did not disappoint, with Barbe beating Sam Houston 3-1 in a battle of unbeatens on Thursday followed by the Broncos earning a measure of revenge Saturday with a 4-2 win.

The results left both teams in the middle of a district title chase that is full of contenders, with Sulphur leading the race with a 6-0 mark in league play. Should the Tors continue to lead the race, the district will be decided in April, when the Tors play a pair of two-game series against the Bucs and Broncos back to back.

No matter the outcome of the district race, it looks likely that we could get more games between the trio in the playoffs. A repeat of the 2018 season, when all three teams made the state tournament in Sulphur, is in play. Barbe is in second place, Sam Houston third and Sulphur fifth in the Division I power ratings, meaning they would all avoid each other until the semifinal round, if all make it.

Each of the teams have plenty of pieces in place to make a title run. Barbe’s Landon Victorian, Sam Houston’s Dylan Thompson and Sulphur’s Jake Brown are all seniors and LSU signees who can dominate on the mound. Brown and Thompson also excel at the plate and can make an impact on every game. The Bucs have their own two-way star in J.C. Vanek, a southpaw who struck out eight in the second game against Sam Houston. Freshman J.D. Alexander, who hit a home run in the first Sam Houston game, is another dual threat for the Bucs.

Pitching has been the strong suit for Barbe. Through 20 games the Bucs have shut out 11 opponents and held four more to a single run. The offense has produced double-digit run totals 12 times with Texas A&M commitment Presley Courville setting the table for Vanek and Donovan Lasalle. Courville at catcher, LSU commitment Owen Galt at shortstop and Lasalle in center field give the Bucs strong defense up the middle.

The Bucs have plenty of motivation after losing to St. Amant in the quarterfinals last season, ending a streak of three consecutive trips to the state tournament. Victorian is a dominant, hard-throwing right-hander who has lost one game over the past two seasons.

Sulphur also lost to St. Amant last year in the semifinals. Brown is among the top players in the state and has kept the momentum going after earning the district MVP award and all-state honors last spring, followed by winning a gold medal with Team USA at the World Cup tournament in September.

The Tors have depth on the mound with McNeese State signees Kohl Navarre and Luke Benoit along with Landon Arrant, Slade Shove-Knox, Hayden Anderson, Dillon Bird and Carter Wilson all capable of delivering quality innings behind Brown.

The batting order is deep as well, with Brown an on-base machine in the leadoff slot and Bird, Benoit, fellow McNeese signee Grant Trahan and Bryce Fontenot serving as the run producers. Piling up regular-season wins will be crucial for the Tors, who need to move into the top four of the power ratings in order to guarantee being at home in a quarterfinal series.

Saturday’s win was crucial for the Broncos, who showed maturity and experience in bouncing back from Thursday’s loss. A strong pitching performance from the tandem of Thompson and Nik Toups kept the team in the game and Carson Devillier delivered the big hit with a three-RBI single in the top of the seventh inning. Sam Houston has allowed eight runs in six district games behind a strong starting staff featuring Thompson, Cole Flanagan, Ty Latour and Jake Rider.

Connor Walker is the latest in a string of outstanding catchers for the Broncos, and Texas signee Sam Ardoin is among the area’s top hitters. The Broncos have all the pieces in place to bring home a Division I state title.

a

Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at

warren.arceneaux@americanpress.com

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