NEW ORLEANS — When the powers that be at Brother Martin chose the date for the Senior Prom, they should have first consulted with the Crusaders baseball team.
That way, they would have been told the players planned to be otherwise occupied Friday night. And hopefully, for that matter, on Saturday too, in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 5A state tournament.
As they are.
Brother Martin (30-5), the No. 3 seed, meets sixth-seeded Sam Houston (25-9) in the last of four quarterfinal games at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium.
The semifinals and championship game are set for Saturday.
“Our dates are with Turchin Stadium,” senior catcher Cody Ducote said. “We don’t mind missing the prom.
“We’d rather be playing baseball.”
This is Brother Martin’s first state tournament appearance since 2010 when Ducote and fellow seniors Peyton Senner, Jacob Senner and Blake Battle all were freshmen but regulars on the team.
The Crusaders’ stay that year was brief — a 4-2 loss to Dutchtown. But Ducote made his mark with a two-run homer off the scoreboard.
“We’d thought we’d be coming back every time after that,” Ducote said. “But it didn’t work out until now.”
Indeed, Brother Martin not only fell, but fell hard in the playoffs the last two years – 19-0 to Zachary in the opening round in 2011 and 9-0 to Dutchtown in the second round in 2012.
And in Monday’s regional round game against Denham Springs the Crusaders were in trouble again, trailing 2-1 in the sixth.
But they scored two runs without a hit to win 3-2, upping their winning streak to 16 and punching their ticket to Tulane.
“We knew we just had to wait out their pitcher,” said Ducote, who drove in the deciding run with a sacrifice fly. “Sometimes you just have to let the game come to you.
“If it takes a sac fly to win it, then that’s fine with me.”
Ducote finished 0-for-1 with a strikeout and two walks besides the sacrifice fly.
It was one of the few times this season he’s failed to get a hit in a game. Ducote leads the team with a .455 batting average and his 41 RBIs.
But more than that, he has become a first-rate catcher.
“Cody has come a tremendous amount,” Brother Martin coach Mark Wisniewski said. “When he came here, he was a position player, but we needed a catcher.
“He jumped into it full force, and he’s been a phenomenal player for us ever since.”
Ducote admitted he didn’t want to be a catcher, having been an infielder since his first days of playing the game.
But Ducote’s warmed to the task, especially at working with the pitchers.
“I’ve developed good relationships with all of them,” he said. “You learn how to call the pitches and control the tempo of the game.
“It’s like you’re in charge.”
Plus, Ducote said being a catcher has made him a better hitter.
“I’ve got a better eye at the plate,” he said. “You learn how to work to get good counts and make the pitcher throw strikes.
“I’d have never thought about that unless I was catching,”
Ducote will continue his playing career at Delgado.
“I had some four year options,” he said. “But Delgado presents me with a lot of options for playing time right away.
“I know a lot guys who have gone through the program (including ex-Crusader and current LSU designated hitter Sean McMullen), and they’ve been successful.”
But first, there’s a state championship to contend for.
Brother Martin hasn’t won one since 1996, the year after Ducote and the other seniors were born.
The Crusaders haven’t even made it to Saturday since 2003.
But Ducote said that changes this year.
That’s why even though the prom will still be going strong when Friday’s game ends, the players are going home.
“We plan on winning,” he said. “We’ve got to go home and rest up for Saturday.”