When they departed North Park nearly two months ago after Catholic High’s 6-3 victory over Denham Springs in 12 innings, there was a mutual feeling amongst both teams they hadn’t seen the last of one another.
Two months later, with dreams of a state-tournament berth on the line, they will try to end the other’s season.
“We knew when we played them they were going to make a postseason run,” Catholic baseball coach Brad Bass said. “We knew there was a possibility we could see them again.”
The two district champions, who went undefeated in their regional series, will meet in a best-of-three Class 5A state quarterfinal series when second-seeded Catholic (34-3) hosts seventh-seeded Denham Springs (25-7) at 4 p.m. Friday
The series continues Saturday at 1 p.m. with a third game, if necessary, set for 4 p.m..
“Coach Bass and his staff do a great job with them,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “They play and keep working and try to play the full seven. They’ve done a very good job with that bunch.”
While Catholic gets to enjoy the comforts of playing at home sixth-seeded St. Michael the Archangel (21-9) travels to face third-seeded Franklinton (21-4) in the best-of-three Class 4A state regional series that begins Friday at 4:30 p.m.
“I know our team’s looking forward to the challenge,” St. Michael coach Johnny Bernhard said. “We have to see if we can go up against one of the best programs around and win a series at their field. It’s not going to be easy and we know that.”
DENHAM SPRINGS-CATHOLIC: The individual matchups within the series are intriguing.
Two of the area’s top pitchers – Catholic’s Ross Massey (9-0, 1.56 ERA, 60 Ks) and Bailey Holstein (9-0, 1.14 ERA, 56 Ks) are scheduled to oppose each other in the first game.
Massey, a Tulane signee, gets to face a lineup led by right fielder Travis Swaggerty (.466, 27 RBIs, 22 walks), a South Alabama signee, along with center fielder Ashton Martin (.4342, 20 walks, 13 stolen bases) and designated hitter Tanner Magee (.301, 6 2Bs, 17 RBIs.)
“You’re going to see two good pitching staffs going at it, two good lineups that can hit throughout and two good defenses,” Bass said. “I expect a real good baseball game.”
Holstein, who has signed with Angelina (Texas) Junior college, has the responsibility of keeping in check a Catholic offense with a pair of .400 hitters in designated hitter Charles Soileau (.441, 20 RBIs) and shortstop Josh Smith (.435, 3 HRs, 12 2Bs, 25 RBIs).
“Both teams are pretty evenly matched and it’s going to depend on who makes that clutch pitch or who makes that great defensive play,” Carroll said. “Who is going to do some of the little things you may not see in a boxscore to help you win.”
ST. MICHAEL-FRANKLINTON: This marks fourth time in eight years his program the two programs cross paths during the postseason. The last time came in 2011 when the Warriors took a 6-3 home regional victory.
Tyler Ezell (8-0, 1.01 ERA) is set to start Friday’s game for St. Michael, who will rely on Jonathan Lofton (5-2, 1.95) in Saturday’s Game 2 at 1 p.m. and Evan Becnel (3-3, 2.40) either in relief or potential Game 3 starter.
LSU signee Christopher Reid (.433, 8 2Bs, 18 RBIs) leads the offense with productivity from Michael Smith (.394, 9 2Bs, 26 RBIs), Leighton Waitz (.392, 8 2Bs, 32 RBIs) and Nolan Tiersch (.337, 6 2Bs, 18 RBIs).
“They’re a pretty complete team,” Bernhard said. “They have a good pitching staff, they have speed and play good defense. It should be a good weekend of baseball.”