Familiarity with an opponent can be instrumental to beating the competition.
There are no surprises after having faced an opponent three times in a season. Each team knows one another’s in-game tendencies and strengths and weaknesses. That allows the two teams to just focus on playing their game instead of spending unnecessary time scouting an unknown opponent.
Acadiana baseball coach Jay Hodges admits that familiarity is helpful but that isn’t what ultimately determines the outcome.
“It definitely matters,” Hodges said. “You have a lot of information on an opponent that is an advantage, but they have that, too. Even with that information, both teams still have to go out and execute.”
Hodge’s ballclub will try to execute a victory when No. 13-seeded Acadiana takes on District 3-5A rival and fourth-seeded Lafayette in Game 1 of a best-of-three regional playoff series. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Lafayette High’s field, while Game 2 is noon Saturday, and if necessary, Game 3 will be at 3 p.m. Sunday.
In the regular season Acadiana (20-11) took two of three from Lafayette (23-8), including a 2-1 district win just a few weeks ago. Despite that success, Hodges said he knows that his pitching staff of Game 1 starter John Joslin, Derek Boutin and Tanner Broussard can’t afford to make a mistake when facing one of the area’s premier hitters, Lafayette leadoff hitter and LSU commitment Antoine Duplantis who is hitting well over .400 and has accounted for more than 70 runs this season.
“We just want him to hit to somebody,” Hodges said. “We want to throw strikes because we don’t want to walk him. Without a doubt, he is one of the best leadoff guys around, so you hope to throw strikes and not give him a free pass.”
“He is the catalyst of our lineup,” longtime Lafayette coach Sam Taulli said. “Teams have been pitching around him, so the rest of our lineup needs to protect him.”
Taulli knows that his team will have their hands full with Acadiana’s ace Boutin, who gave up only one run on two hits while striking out seven in the teams’ last meeting. Boutin, who pitched in the Rams playoff opener, will likely take the mound in Game 2 or 3.
“He is big powerful lefty,” Taulli said. “Facing a lefty as powerful as he is you can’t afford to make any mistakes. We made a few of those in that 2-1 loss. We can’t afford to do that.”
The two rivals are coming off playoff wins obtained in different fashions. Lafayette edged East Ascension 2-1 in the opening round, while Acadiana defeated St. Amant 7-2.
Lafayette’s win came in dramatic fashion as designated hitter Emile Lege walked in the bottom of the seventh to score Owen Thibodeaux.
Hodges said that close victory is not indicative of how explosive Lafayette is.
“They have a lot of speed, they play good defense, they pitch well and they swing the bats well up and down the lineup,” Hodges said. “They are No. 4 in the power rankings for a reason.”
For Lafayette, which was forced to play five district games in five games because of weather late in the season, the focus is simply on the task at hand. Go out and take care of business Friday.
“We just need to focus on winning the next game and not worry about what’s down the road,” Taulli said.