First-year Acadiana baseball coach Matt McCullough named Class 5A Coach of the Year _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRAD KEMP Lafayette pitcher Bo Hardin

Acadiana’s baseball coach Matt McCullough may not have experienced the fairy-tale end he sought in his first season.

But, the former Wrecking Rams’ player still enjoyed a memorable season nonetheless.

McCullough, who played for his legendary father Scott, guided No. 15 Acadiana from a fifth-place District 3-5A finish to a red-hot finish down the stretch that resulted in a Class 5A state tournament appearance.

For his efforts McCullough, whose team finished 21-16, was named Coach of the Year on the Class 5A all-state baseball team picked by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

“They did a great job, probably better than any I’ve ever coached at getting better throughout the year and playing their best baseball by the end of the season,” McCullough said. “Part of it was we were young with a couple of guys back. Another part was eventually we knew they were going to get better and start playing well, especially with the schedule we played.”

District 3-5A foe, Barbe, had the team’s Outstanding Player in senior pitcher Tyler Booth (8-0), who helped the Buccaneers to their third straight state championship.

Lafayette High, which was the District 3-5A runner-up to Barbe, was represented on the first team by junior pitcher Bo Hardin (8-1) and first baseman Hudson Laborde (.467).

Acadiana produced pitcher Chad Romero and shortstop Brandon Duhon on the honorable mention squad, while Cain Castille of Lafayette was also an honorable mention choice.

Infielder Sydni Larrvierre (.518) of Acadiana was the lone area selection on the first-team all-state softball team, while teammate Kennedi Smith earned honorable mention status.

Acadiana’s baseball team experienced an inconsistent first half of the season, bolting to a 9-4 record before dropping six straight — a stretch that included the Atchafalaya Challenge and the start of district play.

“We kept telling our guys and the staff about how tough that stretch was,” McCullough said. “We lost some tough games where we had a chance to win a few of those. But we kept telling our guys to keep playing and improving and we would have a chance to play with anybody.”

Four of the six losses were by a total of seven runs when Acadiana defeated Lafayette 3-0 to ignite a five-game win streak. The Rams then went 3-3 over the second half of district play, resulting in a fifth-place finish.

With the start of postseason play, Acadiana responded with its best baseball of the season, winning five of six games to advance to the state tournament.

After a 2-1 opening win over Dutchtown, Acadiana emerged with a 5-4 win in Game 3 against archrival Lafayette to win their best-of-three regional before going on to sweep Ruston by a combined score of 19-6 in the quarterfinals.

The Rams, wh0 carried a 1-0 lead into the sixth, fell 2-1 to Byrd in the semifinals.

“I believe our assistant coaches are as good as anybody’s in the state,” McCullough said. “They’re a tremendous part of our success. Your assistants and the leaders of your team have a lot to do with these types of coaching awards. It was a fun year. When you get that close, it makes you work that much harder to have a chance to win the whole thing.”