Carencro looks for late-season push _lowres

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO - Carencro's Gabe Duffy is tagged out by Lafayette's Hudson Laborde in the first inning Saturday in Carencro.

CARENCRO — The Carencro Bears have plenty to play for, but they have work to do if they’d like to return to the playoffs.

With five games left in the regular season, Carencro (9-16, 2-7 District 3-5A) is ranked No. 37 in the LHSAA power rankings and out of the playoffs. Only the top 32 teams make the postseason.

That may seem daunting, but that challenge has not dampened the team’s spirit or its confidence, fifth-year coach Brannon Cobb said.

“To our kids’ credit, they still have a great and positive attitude about the rest of the season,” Cobb said. “We got five games left. I told the kids, jokingly, that we need to win more than we lose. But if we go 4-1 or 3-2, depending on who we beat, then we have a chance.”

“I believe we can go 4-1 and shock everybody, maybe go 5-0,” said senior pitcher Jacob Norman, a Blinn Junior College signee. “3-2 is just average and I believe we are way better than that.”

Last season, Carencro finished 16-13 and earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2009 before losing to Alexandria Senior High 7-1 in the opening round.

Even though the team lost its two starting pitchers from that squad, Carencro returned five starters and seemed poised to build on that breakthrough season but has struggled with consistency.

“We made some mental mistakes early, we had a few bad breaks go against (us), we made some timely errors in a couple games we should have won,” Cobb said. “Whatever it might have been, we just never played consistently early in the year. All of that kept us around .500 for most of that predistrict season. We expected to be better than that.”

Carencro started district play with five straight losses but has played well of late ain District 3-5A, which consists of five teams ranked in the Top 11 of the power rankings. The Bears lost 3-1 to defending state champion Barbe on March 31 and fell 6-5 in nine innings to No. 1 Sulphur on April 2 before picking up back-to-back wins over Comeaux and New Iberia.

“I think a lot of that has to do with building a program,” Cobb said. “I think a lot of that has to do with not experiencing a lot of success. I think our kids believe that they can win any time they step on the field against whoever we play. I am not sure they expect to, and that’s what we are striving for.”

“We are playing good baseball,” said Norman, who leads the team with 59 strikeouts. “We just lose focus every now and then and great teams capitalize on that.”

Whether Carencro makes it to the playoffs or not, a foundation is being built at the school known primarily for football. In the past four-plus years, with help from the school and parents, vast improvements have been made to the baseball field, including a new locker room, sprinkler system, flag poles, turf in batting cages, and a new scoreboard.

Cobb said it’s only a matter of time until the on-field progress matches the off-field progress.

“We’ve got tremendous potential,” he said. “The kids are committed to getting where we want to get this program to be.”

The Bears have some key players returning next year to reach that potential, such as leading hitter Gabe Duffy (.324, four HRs, 30 runs) and pitcher Derrick Living (2-1, two saves, 1.72 ERA), as the team drops down to Class 4A.

Another one of those players is Bodie Stelly (.284, five doubles, 2-1 record, 1.77 ERA) who is ready to lead the team in 2016.

“I plan on being one of the leaders next year and hopefully brings us to the playoffs,” Stelly said.