Notre Dame’s baseball team enters the final week of the regular season in command of one of its goals with an eye toward a more long-range objective.
While winning the outright District 5-2A championship would be a clear representation of the team’s work in league play, the Pioneers have greater aspirations with the start of the Class 2A state playoffs just over a week away.
Notre Dame (17-12-1, 4-0) looks to remain perfect in District 5-2A play going into the start of the third round of play, traveling to meet Opelousas Catholic (21-7, 2-2) Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
“The biggest thing we’re worried about now is to try and keep getting better, really gain momentum for next week,” Notre Dame coach Steve Soper said. “We’ve got to do a good job of ironing out those kinks and get on track to play good baseball.”
Another key game in the Acadiana area matches home-standing Westminster Christian Academy (15-9, 5-1) against Catholic-Pointe Coupee (13-9, 5-2) at 6 p.m. in District 5-1A action.
With the LHSAA set to release its Class 2A pairings next Tuesday, both Notre Dame and Opelousas Catholic have their sights set on strong finishes this week.
The Pioneers, rated No. 7 in the LHSAA’s latest unofficial power rankings, finish up at home with a league game Thursday against Sacred Heart-Ville Platte (6 p.m.) and a nondistrict contest Friday with Sam Houston (5:30 p.m.).
Notre Dame’s Top-10 power rating is a byproduct of a challenging nondistrict schedule in which the Pios were 5-6 through March 13 after a 10-0 loss to Class 4A’s top-ranked team, Teurlings Catholic.
The Pioneers then reeled off six wins over their next seven games, including wins over Class 4A’s No. 2 team, St. Michael the Archangel, and Class 5A’s St. Amant.
“There are times where you can get away with mistakes, but when you play teams that are better than us from top to bottom, mistakes are really magnified,” Soper said “It’s the old saying where nobody learns anything in a win. We were fortunate and beat some of those teams. It’s always a big thing to find out what you really have early in the year, make adjustments and go from there.”
Notre Dame is on the brink of the league title with three of four wins coming by one run.
The Pios rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 to win 7-6 with two runs in the bottom of seventh in their first meeting with Sacred Heart.
Staff ace Joe Faulk, who takes a 5-2 record and 1.70 ERA into Tuesday’s game with Opelousas Catholic, pitched a seven-hit shutout with six strikeouts in a 1-0 win over Sacred Heart.
In their two games with Opelousas Catholic, Notre Dame rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 with Nick Hanks driving in a pair of runs, while the Pios rode the strength of a five-run fourth-inning to defeat the Vikings 6-2 last week.
Designated hitter Thomas Stevens leads Notre Dame with a .388 average, 20 RBIs and 15 stolen bases, while first baseman Jacob Vicknair is hitting .355 with seven doubles and 18 RBIs.
“Obviously it’s a great accomplishment to win district, but it’s not really our goal for the year,” Soper said. “We’re more worried about making it into the playoffs and going far.”