On the surface, the prospect of having to face three of the state’s top teams over a six-day span can appear to be daunting at best.
Considering the ground Acadiana’s baseball team has covered over the past three weeks, it’s just the latest test in a challenging season.
“It’s a tough stretch,” Acadiana’s first-year coach Matt McCullough said. “The whole district’s tough. That’s three of the top five teams in the state.”
The first part of that span begins at 3 p.m. Saturday when Acadiana (14-10) travels to Sam Houston (17-9) in a battle of two of the teams tied for third place in District 3-5A.
Sophomore right-hander JuJuan Franklin (3-0, 1.11 ERA, 12 strikeouts), who has been primarily a reliever, is scheduled to make his third start this season.
The Rams and Broncos are 4-3 in district, trailing Barbe (22-5, 5-1), which hosts second-place Lafayette High (17-6, 5-2) on Saturday.
Barbe is the LHSAA’s No. 1 team in its latest unofficial power ratings followed by Lafayette, which lost 11-3 at home Thursday to Sam Houston, the No. 5 team.
Acadiana hosts Barbe on Tuesday and travels Thursday to Lafayette.
“Every game’s big, but we’re focused on going to Sam Houston and playing good baseball,” McCullough said.
Nearly three weeks ago Acadiana headed into the first round of district play on a three-game losing streak and promptly lost its first three league games by a combined five runs to New Iberia, Sam Houston and Barbe.
“It was a combination of us having some inexperienced guys early in the year that have started to grow up, kind of finding out who were some of our best guys on the mound were,” McCullough said. “We’ve started swinging it better at the plate. We also got our starting center fielder back (Braylon Trahan) about nine games ago from broken wrist before start of the season.”
McCullough said the turning point in his team’s resurgence transpired in a 3-0 home win over Lafayette on March 29, when pitcher Chad Romero threw a complete-game, three-hitter.
That ignited a current five-game win streak, enabling the Rams to jettison the league’s cellar for third place along with Sam Houston and Sulphur (15-9).
Acadiana has also shown its resolve over the past week, rallying from six-run deficits at Comeaux to win 10-7 and most recently in Thursday’s 7-6 home comeback win over New Iberia.
“Our guys have been doing a good job about the last eight or nine games of playing the game the right way,” McCullough said.
“We’ve been able to get a big hit, make a big play or big pitch. Even in some of the close games we lost, we played pretty well.”
Acadiana trailed New Iberia 4-0 after the first inning and 6-0 after the fourth before starting to chip away. The Rams scored once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and four times in the seventh after Franklin held the Yellow Jackets scoreless in the top half of the inning.
“Even before that (current winning streak) they thought we could play with and beat anybody,” McCullough said. “It started to happen over the last five games and then you start to believe it even more. Our guys believe they have a chance to win no matter who we’re playing.”