Breaux Bridge baseball team back where it wants to be _lowres

Advocate Photo by BRAD KEMP Breaux Bridge baserunner Alec Laviolette, left, crosses the plate for their first run while Cecilia catcher Kyle Guidry waits for the throw during their high school baseball game Saturday April 9, 2016 at Breaux Bridge High School in Breaux Bridge, La..

A year ago, Breaux Bridge’s baseball players had already picked up their equipment, cleaned out their lockers and were watching friends on other teams go through postseason play.

For a program with a tradition of success under longtime coach Kyle Cormier, a former player himself, it was quite a jolt when the Tigers’ streak of 16 consecutive playoff appearances was over.

“I talked to the (returning) seniors after the season,” Cormier said. “I stressed to all of them they weren’t going to allow that to happen again on their watch. It was a blow to us. I asked them to do what it took to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

Fast-forward to this week, and Breaux Bridge not only heeded Cormier’s message but surpassed his expectations.

Not only are the Tigers returning to postseason play with a vengeance, they’re doing so with a lofty No. 5 seed, a 22-4 record and an opening-round Class 4A state playoff game at home Tuesday at 6 p.m. against No. 28 LaGrange.

“I wasn’t expecting us to win this many games,” Cormier said. “That’s a huge accomplishment.”

Breaux Bridge is right back where it wanted to be following an uncharacteristic season in which the Tigers were unable to execute in clutch situations and faltered in close games, Cormier said.

“I felt bad real last year because our senior class was a group of wonderful kids and worked hard,” he said. “Everything that could go wrong, did. They deserved to make the playoffs and did everything we asked of them. We just didn’t play well when we needed to.”

The complexion of this year’s roster — three seniors in all — didn’t suggest a significant upgrade from last year’s team, which slumped to a 16-year low of nine wins.

Cormier said his team is a blend of all classifications that have melded into a winning unit, giving an early indication that brighter days were ahead with a 7-1 start.

Following their first defeat, the Tigers reeled off a stretch of nine wins that bridged the start of District 5-4A play, which they opened with a 5-0 mark and wound up 11-1 and champions of the league.

“We got some young kids this year that have a lot of fire,” Cormier said. “They pushed a lot of the older guys. We’re getting a good mixture of leadership from our starters. They’re all buying into the system.”

Breaux Bridge’s success has been built around an effective pitching staff, solid defense and a capable offense predicated on moving runners and timely hitting.

Senior Alex Franks, who will start against LaGrange, has contributed on the mound (4-0, 3.764 ERA, 28 Ks), at the plate (.310, six doubles, 17 RBIs, 15 runs) and in leadership.

Freshman Cole Mouton (5-0, 1.016 ERA, 40 Ks) and Braylon Dore (6-2, 1 save, 1.95 ERA, 55 Ks) are also key parts of the Tigers pitching staff.

Tyler Thibodeaux, a junior catcher and Northwestern State commitment, leads Breaux Bridge with a .412 average, eight doubles, four triples and 23 RBIs.

Sophomore second baseman Julian Leon bats .387 from his lead-off spot with three triples, 21 runs and 11 stolen bases, while the Tigers also rely on junior center fielder Alec Laviolette (.344, 21 runs, 19 stolen bases, 16 RBIs) and Dore (323, six doubles, 13 RBIs).

“We try to preach to just play the game and don’t worry about the things you can’t control,” Cormier said. “I think it’s worked.”