When the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association handed out its updated rankings last week, Opelousas Catholic didn’t break stride to celebrate.
For the first time in coach Justin Hill’s seven-year tenure, the Vikings sat atop the Class 2A poll, but you wouldn’t have known from the lack of fanfare amongst the players.
It was simply business as usual with Opelousas Catholic splitting its first District 5-2A series with defending league champion Catholic-New Iberia — responding from an opening 7-1 defeat with a 7-0 victory.
“I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, whether they don’t care or they’re not looking,” Hill said. “They hadn’t said anything and neither have we as coaches. I guess it’s people believing that we beat some good teams. Hopefully, we keep it because that means we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”
OCHS (11-4, 1-1) resumes district play with a road game at Loreauville (9-4, 1-0) at 4 p.m. Monday and at Sacred Heart-Ville Platte (16-2) for a 4 p.m. nondistrict game Tuesday before returning home to host Loreauville at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re still inconsistent,” Hill said. “Guys work hard but are inexperienced, so it’s hard to tell what I’m going to get from them every game. When practice comes they get after it and my assistants have helped. “
Like most teams in the southern region, miserable weather conditions didn’t lend itself to red-hot starts and building toward the start of district play.
OCHS was no different, and for a team with only four returning starters from a state playoff participant the Vikings have been a work in progress, displaying signs of promise along the way.
After opening with three straight wins, including a 9-5 victory over reigning Class 2A state champion Kinder, the Vikings lost a 6-5, 12-inning contest against Oak Grove and a 4-3 encounter with Class 4A’s Cecilia in 11 innings.
“We have some younger, newer guys,” Hill said. “We’ve still have to figure out how to play together. We’ve played better against better teams and kind of laid back a little bit against other opponents. Mentally is what’s kind of holding us back right now.”
OCHS reeled off three consecutive wins in Ascension Catholic’s tournament with a 13-3 verdict over the host Bulldogs, followed by a 4-0 shutout over Episcopal and dispatched of Class 3A’s University High by a 3-2 score.
“We were hit like everybody else in the first part of the season where the weather was terrible and not getting a lot of consistent practice time,” Hill said. “Every week felt like we were starting over because you couldn’t do anything on the field for three of four days. Once the weather got better we started getting in more consistent practices and playing games. We’ve continued to get better.”
Because of the threat of rain OC’s second game last week with CHNI was moved up a day, minimizing the time the Vikings had to reflect on getting shutout on a two-hitter by nemesis Blake Gonsoulin.
OC responded with four runs in the first inning to back the five-hit, complete-game shutout of staff Spencer Noel in a 7-0 triumph.
Noel (5-0) is the staff’s most experienced pitcher with a staff that also includes a mixture of Devin Casse, Conner Castille, Conner Cart and Spencer Gardner.
Senior Zachary Hebert, who alternates between second and third base, is the team’s top offensive threat with a .340 average and 11 RBIs. Cart, also an outfielder, tops the team with a .412 average with left fielder Caleb Theriot driving in 11 runs.
“We were winning at the beginning on talent alone but we were inconsistent,” Hill said. “We weren’t playing well but good enough to win. We’ve got a lot of potential but it’s untapped right now.”