The District 7-1A baseball race is rivaling the one by the league’s football teams last fall, when three teams shared the district championship.
The marquee matchup this week features first-place Central Catholic-Morgan City (18-4, 8-1) and third-place Ascension Episcopal School (16-8, 9-3).
The two are scheduled to play at 6 p.m. Thursday in Morgan City and return to Youngsville for a 1 p.m. game Saturday.
“We’ve preached that every game’s just as important as the next,” Ascension Episcopal coach Lonny Landry said. “Win or lose, you have to let it go. We have a lot of young guys in our lineup, and they’re going to go out to compete and play the same way no matter who’s across the dugout.”
There’s also a key game before that matchup with Central Catholic, which faced Gueydan (6-13, 2-8) in a doubleheader Tuesday, traveling to second-place Hanson (15-7, 8-2) on Wednesday to finish its series.
Hanson handed CCMC a 7-3 defeat on April 12. The Tigers also have doubleheaders this week with Highland Baptist (4-17, 2-8) and Gueydan.
The fourth team in the district championship picture, Vermilion Catholic (16-10, 9-3), finishes with Lafayette Christian Academy (8-12, 4-7). The Eagles host the Knights at 6 p.m. Thursday and travel for a noon game Saturday.
“This is definitely the best district in the state,” Vermilion Catholic coach Ben Harrington said.
“It’s tough, trying to game plan when you have two of those teams back to back. I would be surprised if a team from our district doesn’t go on to win it all.”
District 7-1A boasts more teams (four) in the LHSAA’s current unofficial power rankings than any other Class 1A league in the state.
CCMC, which reached the Class 1A state tournament a year ago, is rated No. 1 followed by Hanson (No. 3), Vermilion Catholic (No. 7) and AES (No. 11).
AES completed its fourth sweep in district play with a 9-5 victory on Monday over Lafayette Christian.
Since being swept by VC, the Blue Gators are riding a six-game win streak that helped compensate for an earlier split with Hanson.
“The last week was the first time we’ve been 100 percent healthy on the mound and position player wise,” Landry said.
“It’s made a big impact on the outcome of the last six games.”
Pitching has been a major component in AES’ recent surge. With a pair of freshmen — Sean-Michael Brady (5-2, 1.40 ERA) and Carter Dooley (2-2, 4.00) combining with sophomore Andrew Hebert (4-1, 1.00) — to give the Gators a solid staff.
Junior outfielder Jeffrey Elkins (.435), junior outfielder Josh Hebert (.420) and freshman catcher Austin Arceneaux (.412) are the team’s top hitters.
“Based on last year’s season, I had a feeling we’d be pretty good on offense and defense,” Landry said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure how good we would be on the mound. I knew that would be the deal breaker and so far it’s been a deal maker.”
Harrington knew in order for VC to be a part of the district-title equation, his team would have to survive a 1½-week gauntlet of consecutive series with Hanson, AES and Central Catholic.
The Eagles swept AES, split with Hanson and wound up getting swept by Central Catholic, including a second game that went extra innings.
“That was rough,” Harrington said. “It’s fun to play quality guys all the time. I feel like we’ve played some of the best teams in the state, and it prepares you well for the playoffs.”