Gauthier & Amedee set for state tournament _lowres

Gonzales Blaine Schexnayder throws to first during Game 12 of the American Legion World Series against Hawaii. (Ben Earp/The Star)

The challenge for Gauthier & Amedee’s American Legion team was to find the type of competition outside of its eight-game district schedule to prepare itself for a postseason run reminiscent of years past by the Ascension Parish-based program.

Coach Conrad Gayle found games in all corners of the state that included a three-game series against the New Orleans Boosters — an all-college team — and a tournament in Alabama.

Twenty-five games later G&A (16-9) is hoping to see the payoff when it opens play in the American Legion state tournament 10:30 a.m. Saturday against St. Charles Catholic-based Townsend Homes at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in New Orleans.

“I’m really excited because when you have pitching and defense, you’re going to be in every game,” said Gayle, an assistant at Dutchtown High School.

The seven-team, double-elimination tournament continues through Wednesday with the championship game scheduled for 4 p.m. with an if-necessary game to follow at 7.

G&A’s big-picture mentality for the state tournament has been exhibited in its preparation with the use of wooden bats throughout the summer. Louisiana is one of the few states that prohibits aluminum bats at the state-tournament level, Gayle said.

Conversely, G&A brings in a .281 team batting average — a figure also impacted by the high level of pitching they’ve faced.

“We didn’t swing it as great with runners in scoring position and get the timely hits,” Gayle said. “But we got better each game because of the arms we faced. You don’t get many chances against those guys, and when you do, you have to make them count.”

LSU-Eunice bound shortstop Blaine Schexnayder of Dutchtown tops G&A’s offense with a .391 average, eight doubles, two homers, 22 RBIs and nine stolen bases. “He’s the leader of this team,” Gayle said.

G&A also features four regulars batting .300 or better with third baseman Payton Stafford (.333, four doubles, one home run, 14 RBIs) of Dutchtown, second/third baseman Hayden Adams (.333), a Delgado signee of East Ascension and catcher Tyler Boeding (.333, three doubles, two HRs) of St. Amant leading the way.

G&A has also recently regained the services of injured infielder Adam Sevario of St. Amant, who is batting .364 with four RBIs in seven games.

Gayle said he hopes there’s a carry-over from his team’s tune-up for the state tournament — an 8-4 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Spice.

“We’ve got a balanced lineup,” he said. “I think we’re getting hot.”

That would help lessen the burden and complement a talented pitching staff that Gayle counts as high as 10 deep and carries a 2.68 team ERA into the state tournament.

LSU-Eunice signee Dillon Abess of Dutchtown (4-0, 1.57 ERA, 36 Ks, 30 IP) is the scheduled starter in opening game.

G&A’s staff also boasts front-line starters such as Ascension Parish resident and Nicholls State signee Adam Tarver of Parkview Baptist (2-1, 3.30 ERA, 21 Ks, 19 IP) and Adams (2-0, 3.04 ERA, 21 Ks, 19 IP).

Skylar Enlow (2-0, 4.87 ERA), Blayne Enlow (0-0, 1.38 ERA, 17 Ks, 13 IP) — both of St. Amant — are part of G&A’s deep staff along with Hunter Sanford of Dutchtown (1-0, 2.75 ERA, 20 Ks, 20 IP), Brennen Grant (1-0, 1.57 ERA, 19 Ks, 16 IP) of St. Amant/Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State-bound Tristan Babin (1-0, 1.17 ERA) of East Ascension.

“He’s our big workhorse, just like he was for Dutchtown,” Gayle said of Abess. “When he’s on the mound, you’ve always have a great chance to win. Pitching has by far kept us in every game and the defense has been playing well.”