Before the start of Port Barre’s practice Tuesday in preparation for the Class 3A state baseball playoffs the sound of a familiar voice stood in front of the team.
It was senior catcher Cy Bryson at his best, giving a unifying message before the No. 27 Red Devils’ playoff opener at No. 6 St. Charles at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“I told them the first step toward winning the game was believing you can win,” Bryson said. “I made sure everyone could hear me. A few years ago Port Barre was a No. 30 seed and beat No. 3 Calvary. They didn’t feel like it was an upset. They believed they could win, therefore they did.”
Four years of starting as the team’s rock behind the plate, providing a productive bat in the lineup and steady leadership, Bryson’s high school career is facing elimination.
No longer is there the comfort of looking forward to next season and Bryson, one of only two seniors, is serving as a galvanizing force to lead Port Barre (13-10) on a deep postseason run.
“In years past, I’ve tried leading by example, but since we had a younger group this year I’ve done both and also led by word of mouth,” said Bryson, a two-time, first team All-District 5-3A selection. “I had to get them to understand what we were capable of doing and what we needed to do.”
Not only is Bryson part of a two-member senior class but the Red Devils returned just three starters from a year ago and the early season results were somewhat predictable. Port Barre developed a trend, never winning or losing more than one in a row and was 6-7 in nondistrict competition.
Amid such inconsistency came the first sign the Red Devils could contend for the District 5-3A championship with a 7-6 victory March 19 over previous champion Livonia — a win that sparked an 8-2 district record and league title.
“I knew we had the potential to win a district championship, and I wanted to do that,” Bryson said. “We had some new players, and I knew if we came together we would be able to win some games. Baseball’s a team sport, and that’s the most important thing if you want to win.”
For all of his contributions — past and present — Port Barre coach Craig Stevens dreads life without Bryson next year.
“I hate to think about it,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be tough to replace him because he does so much. He’s an all-around player and is as good as it gets defensively.”
After two years as the team’s starting quarterback and defensive back, Bryson gave up football to concentrate full time on baseball this season, which resulted in his best overall season and recent signing with LSU-Eunice.
Bryson, a career .443 hitter, is batting .500 this season with three homers, seven doubles and 29 RBIs. He’s also scored 30 runs, drawn 21 walks and stolen 17 bases.
Moreover, Bryson has thrown out more than 50 percent of opponents trying to steal, allowed his first passed ball in the final regular-season game and took over the pitch-calling duties this season.
“He’s like having a coach on the field for me,” Stevens said. “He handles our pitching staff so well, and 99 percent of the time we’re thinking alike on the pitches he calls. He’s definitely a big time leader. The leader of our team.”