The boys of spring
With spring approaching, the grass was gotten greener, the days have gotten hotter and baseball teams in Ascension have grown hungrier.
It’s that time of year again, when these young men daydream about making a May trip to Sulphur and hoisting up a state championship trophy after seven innings of giving their blood, sweat and tears.
Yep, it’s baseball season.
The three Class 5A parish heavyweights have been able to have quite a bit of success in the playoffs over the years. With the talent coming back in 2017, that just may be the case again this season.
St. Amant had the most success in 2016 as they reached the state quarterfinals for the third time in four years.
They again return a talented roster that at least has the potential to match last year’s output.
They’ll have a chance to beat anyone when LSU signee Blayne Enlow is on the mound. Enlow is one of the most dominating pitchers in the country.
From the plate, they bring back Nicholls signee Ivan Prejean, along with first-team all-district outfielder Zane Zeppuhar and Briggs Bourgeois.
Though, they will surely miss Florida International signee Adam Sevario as both a hitter and a reliable fielder at short stop.
It will also be vital that someone steps up and becomes a comparable No. 2 starter in their rotation. Graduating senior Tyler Tidwell was an all-district player in that capacity last season.
The team that looks to have the most experienced pitching staff top to bottom will be East Ascension.
The Spartans took some lumps last year with a team that featured plenty of youth and inexperience. This season, those guys are seasoned and ready to take the next step.
Though they lost an all-district pitcher in Southern signee Austin McInnis, they bring back Brandon Foncree and Trent LeBlanc. Both players had great summers with the Gauthier & Amedee American Legion team.
Noah Fontenot is also back to give them a nice third option.
From the plate, two first-team all-district players in outfielder Ryan Williams and catcher Jacob Thompson will return, along with Gage Bourgeois.
Dutchtown comes in with the most unknowns.
The Griffins lost the bulk of their starting lineup from last season—including two Northwestern State signees in Caleb Ricca and Payton Stafford.
Their pitching staff was also gutted with the departure of Ricca, Myles Quick, Britton Benoit and Dustin Decoteau.
Returning players like Nicholls commit Cameron Crawford, Cameron Sibley and Cade Blanchard will be looked upon to lead the inexperienced bunch.
The good news for Dutchtown is that they also featured many first-team starters last season—guys like Crawford, Sibley and Blanchard—and they still won 17 games and made the playoffs.
Head coach Chris Schexnaydre always seems to get the best out of his teams, regardless of how they look on paper. It also doesn’t hurt that they have the best assistant coach in the parish in Bob Lemons—a guy that won four state titles as the head coach at St. Amant.
In 1A, Ascension Catholic looks to be the top dog. They have made it to the state quarterfinals in three consecutive seasons.
With the pitching staff they return, they very well may extend that streak.
Last year’s District 6-1A MVP and LSU-Eunice signee Landon Clifton is back, along with all-district hurler D.J. Giroir. That gives them one of the best one-two punches in the parish.
Their offense will be lethal as well.
Though they lost Collin Landry and Garrett Hales, they return a slew of great hitters in Clifton, fellow LSU-Eunice signee Nick Bellina, Mason Zeringue, Ross Ponville and Dillon Vice.
Though, the Bulldogs will have some competition in District 6-1A.
Under first-year head coach Conrad Gayle, Ascension Christian enters 2017 with a multitude of starters back from a team that hosted a first-round playoff game last season.
On the mound, first-team all-district star Josh Diez will be their ace. Peyton Bahlinger, Nic Montalbano and Josh Poirrier will all be viable options behind him.
Altogether, the Lions return seven all-district players from 2016.