As a fifth-year Carencro baseball coach Brannon Cobb has a different perspective on the annual Atchafalaya Challenge — a three-day extravaganza matching five of the top teams from Lafayette against five of the best from the Baton Rouge area.
Not only was Cobb, then an assistant at St. Thomas More on the ground floor of the event’s inception but was the head coach for three years at Central before moving into his current capacity at Carencro.
“The competition is spectacular,” Cobb said. “There’s no lightweights as far as the teams in it. It’s so competitive. It’s a great opportunity right before district to see where you are. You’re basically going up against the best in the state.”
Competition begins at at 4 p.m. Thursday with the five Lafayette teams — Acadiana, Carencro, Comeaux, Lafayette High and St. Thomas More — hosting their Baton Rouge counterparts: Catholic High, Central, Denham Springs, Live Oak and Walker.
Action continues at 4 p.m. Friday and with doubleheaders at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.
If there’s a featured matchup on Thursday,one might consider: reigning Class 5A state runner-up Live Oak (10-4) against reigning Class 4A state champion St. Thomas More (6-6) would qualify as such. Catholic (14-2), which was ranked No. 1 in the first Class 5A poll, also visits Acadiana (6-5).
“We look at it as a definite test,” Acadiana coach Jay Hodges said. “Every year it gives us a measuring stick of where we stand against the kind of competition we’re going to see in district, and if we’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, then as well. We like playing in it, and it’s definitely a challenge.”
Friday will have a couple of interesting games with Live Oak at Lafayette (9-3), Central (9-6) visiting Acadiana and Catholic at St. Thomas More with all games scheduled for 4 p.m.
For Lafayette, it marks the second straight week the Lions will face the same four teams after going undefeated last week in Denham Springs’ tournament.
“It kind of worked out that way this year,” said Lafayette coach Sam Taulli, who expects to throw junior right-hander Emile Lege (2-1) in Thursday’s opener against Walker (7-8). “The week before we didn’t play as well at Sulphur. Last week we were consistent. They competed all four games and we were fortunate.”
A year ago Comeaux (2-8) went 4-0 in the event but has a much different make-up this season after losing of 14 seniors. The Spartans open with Central on Thursday and will throw sophomore right-hander Collin Thibodeaux (1-2).
“Those are some of the teams you will end up having to play in the playoffs should you make it,” Comeaux coach Matt McCullough said. “I know it’s helped us over the last few years. We’re young this year, but in the long run playing good teams like that helps your team.”
Carencro (6-6) snapped a two-game losing streak Tuesday with an 8-4 victory at Kaplan.Senior right-hander Jacob Norman (2-2, 0.238 ERA), a Blinn (Texas) Junior College signee, will start Thursday against Denham Springs. Senior center fielder Gabe Duffy (.406, three HRs, 8 stolen bases) leads the Bears offensively along with senior shortstop Koi Westbrook (.351, eight RBIs) and first baseman Nik Faul (.357).
“There’s so much you can say about the quality of teams involved,” Cobb said. “We’re humbled to be in it. With where we are at Carencro, it’s kind of measuring ourselves against the big boys. We’re trying to build a program to be one of those guys.”
While a champion of the tournament won’t be crowned, the event generally fosters a healthy dose of competition to prove which side of the Atchafalaya Basin plays the better brand of baseball.
“You can see how the Lafayette schools from our district stack up against the Baton Rouge schools,” Hodges said. “They’re always good, and we like to think we play pretty good baseball here. It’s a bragging rights thing for sure.”