Pitching wins championships

Kyle Riviere
Ascension Catholic will lose ace Landon Clifton. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Last week, LSU found out the disheartening news that projected 2018 ace Eric Walker will be forced to miss all of next season as he undergoes Tommy John surgery.

With the Tigers already losing their top two pitchers in Alex Lange and Jared Poche, this will force LSU to totally rebuild their pitching staff.

Reliever Caleb Gilbert and closer Zach Hess will have to step in as starters, and head coach Paul Mainieri said that he’s planning on brining in 11 new pitchers during the offseason.

The drastic overhaul that will take place within LSU’s pitching staff has me thinking about the 2018 Ascension Parish baseball season. Like the Tigers, many of the area’s teams will have a drastic new look from the mound.

Ascension Catholic will be in a very similar situation next season. The Bulldogs are losing their top two pitchers.

Their greatest loss will be ace Landon Clifton, an LSU-Eunice signee. Clifton was the District 6-1A MVP last season, and for the past two years, he has been first-team All-Parish and All-State.

Ascension Catholic has reached the state quarterfinals for four straight seasons, and they reached the semifinals for the first time since 2005 this past season. Much of that success has hinged on Clifton’s right arm.

Though, graduating senior D.J. Giroir has been a great second option for the Bulldogs.

LSU-Eunice signee Nick Bellina was also part of the Ascension Catholic rotation. He too will be gone come 2018.

East Ascension will lose serious firepower from the mound in Kade Keowen’s first year as head coach.

Most notably, they will be without Noah Fontenot. Fontenot stepped into the role of the team’s ace after the Spartans lost Austin McInnis last season.

Fontenot was a first-team all-district player.

East Ascension will also lose starters Brandon Foncree and Joseph Stevens and relievers Reese Hebert and Trent LeBlanc.

Blaise Foote will be one of their most experienced pitchers that returns in 2018.

St. Amant will lose a guy in Blayne Enlow that was not just the best pitcher in the parish, but arguably the best in the state.

He has been downright dominant the past two seasons as the Gators’ ace, striking out a total of 194 batters in that span.

Enlow was District 5-5A MVP and Parish Pitcher of the Year two years in a row and first-team All-State in back-to-back seasons.

Any game where St. Amant scored two or more runs, it was a pretty safe bet they were going to win when he was on the mound.

Oh, by the way, he’s now a professional baseball player.

St. Amant will also lose Colin Schutz, an all-district hurler that came on strong at the end of last season.

But fortunately for the Gators, they still have returning senior Dwain Guice. Guice is a Southeastern commit that emerged in 2017 as one of the best pitchers in the parish.

Head coach Troy Templet and St. Amant will build their pitching staff around him in 2018.

The two Ascension teams that will bring back the most talented and seasoned pitching staffs in 2018 will be Ascension Christian and Dutchtown.

The Lions bring back all of their hurlers from a team that was runner-up in District 6-1A and won the program’s first ever playoff game.

Nic Montalbano emerged as their ace this season. The sophomore was on the mound during their biggest wins and was named first-team all-district and second-team All-Parish.

No. 2 pitcher Josh Diez returns, along with Mason Braud, and they’ll also get a big boost from Josh Poirrier. Poirrier was forced to miss almost all of last season with a dislocated shoulder.

Dutchtown surprised a lot of people with how well they played this season, despite many first-year starters, but much of that success was spearheaded by the effectiveness of their pitching staff.

The Griffins will lose a good arm in Cade Blanchard, but virtually everyone else will return in 2018.

Their ace will be Austin Bankert. Bankers made a name for himself this season, making first-team all-district and second-team All-Parish.

Harrison Hutson, Frank Miller and Ben Mays will all be back, as well as Jack Merrifield.

Merrifield was mostly known for his dangerous bat in 2017, but this summer, he has proven to be one of the most talented pitchers in the parish with Gauthier & Amedee.