Lakeshore is a relatively new school — only 7-years-old, and establishing an identity in rapidly-expanding St. Tammany Parish.
When it comes to sports, however, that Lakeshore identity is being cemented in good part by its baseball program.
The Titans, the 13th seed in the Class 4A bracket, defeated 20th seed St. Martinville 5-3 in a first-round playoff game Wednesday afternoon at Titan Field near Mandeville.
Lakeshore, which finished second in District 8-4A, rapped nine hits (all singles) against the Tigers, and got outstanding pitching from starter Collin Wilkins and reliever Mark Nicholson. The duo limited St. Martinville (14-11) to seven hits. The Tigers committed with five errors.
The Titans (16-11) next will travel to face fourth-seeded Benton in a best-of-three regional playoff series beginning Friday.
“These kids have done a great job, this senior class,” Lakeshore coach Andrew Ravaglia said. “They’ve been taking the team and kind of carrying them, letting them know that everything counts, and every rep in practice is just as important as the ground ball in the seventh to win it for you.”
Wilkins and Nicholson displayed that senior leadership from the start. Though the Titans jumped to a 3-0 lead, St. Martinville was closed the gap. That’s when the senior hurlers dug in their heels.
Nicholson came in and struck out seven in 3.1 innings.
“The mindset is not to give up any runs, not let anyone get on base,” Nicholson said. “You just have to get the outs, go out there and throw strikes.”
Wilkins and St. Martinville starter Braxton Resweber started strongly, with little offense happening through an inning and a half.
But in the bottom of the second, Lakeshore’s bats came alive. The Titans used “small ball” skills — including bunts, speedy base running and the hit-and-run to advance runners.
With one out, Zack Bergeron, Preston Bohn, and Wilkins hit consecutive singles, with Wilkins’ hit scoring Bergeron. Bohn scored on a catcher’s error on a stolen base attempt and Wyatt Evans (pinch running for Wilkins) scoring on a single to center by Mitchell Mejia to make it 3-0.
St. Martinville rallied in the third when Blake Bonin was hit by a pitch, and later scored on an error.
Cy Guidry reached on a single and came home on Collin Guidry’s RBI-single to tighten the score to 3-2. The Titans got the run back in the bottom of the third when Nicholson reached on an error, stole second base, and scored on an RBI single by Bergeron (who finished 2-for-2.)
Undeterred, the Tigers answered in the top of the fourth. Tate Courville singled, was sacrificed to second, moved to third on a fielder’s choice, and came home on an RBI-single by Reese Frederick.
At that point, Lakeshore handed the ball to Nicholson (with two out and the bases loaded.) He got the Tigers out of the jam with a fly-ball out.
That was all the wiggle room the senior right-hander needed.
Lakeshore made the score 5-3 in the bottom of the inning when Cody Doucette reached on an infield single and scored after two St. Martinville infield errors.
Neither squad did much in the fifth, and then Nicholson turned it on in the sixth by striking out the side. In the seventh, he recorded two more strikeouts (both looking) and got a tap-out to second base to end the game.
Now comes Benton.
Nicholson has been, and remains, undeterred.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Best two-out-of-three (in the series), so it will be different. So we have to have three good pitchers. (We’ll be ready.)”