The new best-of-three Class 5A baseball playoff format will be put to the test when Denham Springs and Live Oak host games beginning Friday.
Class 5A teams played a single game in the opening round and will play best-of-three in regionals beginning Saturday and quarterfinals next weekend.
No. 13 Dutchtown (23-11) plays at No. 4 Denham Springs (26-9) at North Park at 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. A third game, if needed, will be at 4 p.m.
No. 26 East Ascension (18-16) plays at No. 10 Live Oak (26-8) at 6 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday. A third game would be played if needed.
Fifth-seeded St. Amant (25-8) hosts No. 12 Shaw at 6 p.m. Games on Saturday would be at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at SAHS. Ninth-seeded Catholic (24-10) and No. 15 Zachary (22-11) play on the road. Catholic travels to No. 8 Ruston for a 6 p.m. Friday game, with Saturday games set for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Zachary plays No. 2 Brother Martin also at 6 at Kirsch Rooney. Saturday games are also set for 1 and 4, if needed.
“I think the best-of-three format is the right step for baseball in our state,” DSHS coach Mark Carroll said. “The majority of coaches wanted this for a long time. We’re anxious to see how it turns out.”
In the old playoff format, East Ascension would have been the home team since the Spartans traveled in the bidistrict round.
“Live Oak had the better regular season, so the way they determine the home team is fair,” EAHS coach Mike Toups said. “I think the format will help the best team advance.”
Denham Springs defeated the Griffins 5-2 earlier in the season.
“We had a real good practice Wednesday and will be ready,” Carroll said. “I expect it to be a war with Dutchtown. Our guys will compete.”
Carroll said he would start at pitcher either senior Brennan Batty (6-2) or junior Bailey Holstein (4-2) on Friday. Dutchtown coach Chris Schexnaydre is set to counter with LSU signee Austin Bain (4-4, 2.83 ERA).
Leading DSHS hitters include center fielder Carl Guidry, catcher Kaleb Clarke, right fielder Travis Swaggerty and left fielder Ashton Martin. Carroll said shortstop Matt Erwin and second baseman Wes Brown have had good defensive seasons.
Schexnaydre said Denham Springs’ team speed is a concern.
“Denham can really run the bases and as always is sound defensively and good on the mound,” Schexnaydre said. “My guys are excited about the opportunity to play.”
Other Dutchtown pitchers include Evan Richardson (5-1, 2.05 ERA), Dylan Abbess (5-1, 1.60 ERA) and Justin Martin (2-1, 3.07 ERA). Leading hitters are outfielder Dylan King (.460), Bain (.370, three homers, 37 RBIs), Martin (.357), designated hitter Payton Stafford (.337), outfielder Aidan Hodges (.333) and Richardson (.322).
Meanwhile, Live Oak has 10 shutouts and has held foes to one run in six games. EAHS lost its last six District 5-5A games, but went on the road to defeat No. 7 Comeaux 3-2. The two teams played earlier in the season with Live Oak scoring two runs in the top of the 10th for a 2-0 victory.
Zach Hansen gets the start for Live Oak. EAHS will throw Austin Millet, Nick Purpera, Austin McInnis or Cole Holley. LOHS also has Hunter Merritt, Lenni Kunert and Michael Claverie.
“We’ve won a lot of games with our pitching and defense,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “We’ve got to execute and hit better with runners in scoring position.”
Leading LOHS hitters include shortstop Claverie, third baseman Kunert, catcher Jared Forrest and second baseman Gage Lockwood. Leading EAHS hitters are center fielder Luke Lambert, right fielder Cade Waguespack and first baseman Triston Babin.
“We definitely have tremendous respect for Live Oak,” Toups said. “They’ve given up very few runs. We’re starting to hit better. I like my guys and my team.”