First-year St. Edmund baseball coach Scott Richard doesn’t see his team’s first appearance in five years at the Allstate LHSAA/Sugar Bowl Class 1A state tournament as a big disadvantage compared to that of his competitor.
Central Catholic of Morgan City is returning to the event for the fifth straight time and played for the state championship in 2013 and ’14 only to falter in both attempts.
“I don’t think the fact them being there the last four years will help them or go against us,” said Richard, who led the Blue Jays to three of the school’s six state championships in a previous stint. “From year to year the teams are different.”
Sixth-seeded St. Edmund (20-9) is in pursuit of the program’s first state title since 1998 when the Blue Jays face seventh-seeded Central Catholic (23-4) in semifinal action at 5 p.m. Friday at Sulphur’s McMurray Park.
The winner matches up against either top-seeded Ouachita Christian or second-seeded Covenant Christian in Saturday’s title game at 4 p.m.
“Some people ask me if we feel pressure because we haven’t gotten it done and my answer is no,” CCMC coach Tyler Jensen said. “It’s more of a hunger thing. We understand you’ve got to win the first game.
“From Day 1 it’s been about getting there and winning the thing.”
Jensen was a part of CCMC’s last state championship team as a senior in 1995.
With just three seniors returning from last year’s state semifinalist club, the Eagles’ fortunes have rested on the shoulders of a talented pitching staff, solid defense and capable offense.
With sophomore ace Greg Leger (7-1, 0.89 ERA, 81 strikeouts) having thrown 103 pitches in a no-decision in CCMC’s 2-1 quarterfinal win Monday evening over Ascension Catholic, Jensen said he will make a “game time decision” between right-handers Samuel Guarisco (5-0, 1.17 ERA) or Blake Hidalgo (7-0, 1.41 ERA, 53 strikeouts).
Guarisco, who plays shortstop when not on the mound, bats .404 to lead the Eagles offensively. He has a homer, 22 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
Lead-off batter Stefano Guarisco, a cousin of Samuel, brings in a .401 average, 32 runs scored, 20 stolen bases, three doubles and 14 RBIs. Sophomore first baseman Mitchell Lemoine (.383) is the team leader with 32 RBIs and designated hitter Thomas Garber (.390) has five doubles and 22 RBIs.
The pitching plans for St. Edmund are more concrete with senior Drew Brown (11-4, 1.94 ERA) having won all three of the Blue Jays playoff games.
“The main thing is he’s throwing strikes,” Richard said. “We feel if we don’t walk anybody, then we’ve got a chance to win it. He’s given us that chance to gets outs instead of walks.”
Catcher Gibson LaFleur tops a St. Edmund’s offense with a .430 average, two homers and 25 RBIs with third baseman Alex Hunt (.396), second baseman William Chachere (.380) and right fielder Ross LaFleur (.364, 18 RBIs) and Brown (two triples, two RBIs) have been key contributors.
“I told the seniors they’ve got one shot at it,” Richard said. “I also told the juniors on down they better enjoy this because it may not ever happen again. We’ve been emphasizing to stay in the moment and don’t get ahead of yourself, play the game and enjoy what you’ve accomplished this year.”