High school baseball is a sport that can lend itself to impressive records and gaudy statistics.
But often there is more to consider than just numbers. Going into the final portion of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s regular season, District 9-1A provides an excellent case in point.
Plaquemine-based St. John (22-5, 7-1) has been ranked in the top five in the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association’s statewide poll and the LHSAA’s Class 1A power ratings all year. The Eagles look the part of the favorite.
But two other Baton Rouge area teams, Ascension Christian (13-12, 6-2) and Ascension Christian (9-11, 6-2), have provided parity and the chance for a fabulous finish.
“It’s been a really good district race,” St. John coach Heath Whittington said.
“Before, it had always been us and Ascension Catholic, but now you have Ascension Christian that has come on too. Add in West St. John, and I think there’s a good chance we’ll put four teams in the playoffs.”
First, the teams must complete the regular season.
ACH travels to Donaldsonville to take on Ascension Catholic at Regira Field in the first of what could be two showdowns.
Ascension Christian beat ACHS 14-4 the first time the teams met. Game time is 4 p.m. Thursday. St. John travels to East Iberville for a 4 p.m. game. A forecast that calls for heavy rain could push the games back.
In order to set up a possible 9-1A title showdown Tuesday at St. John to close the regular season, Ascension Catholic needs to win.
“For us this year, it’s been feast or famine,” ACHS coach Todd Landry said. “We beat St. John, but there have been other times when we haven’t played as well.
“(Tuesday) we lost to West St. John, and they’re a good team also, especially when (Austin) Howard is on the mound. But from here on out every game is a must win.”
St. John is led by left-hander Hunter Schnelbelen (6-1). Rene Ledet (4-1) and Brandon Noel (5-1) are two other lefties Whittington relies on.
Shortstop Trevor Curry, a Southeastern Louisiana signee, leads the Eagles in hitting with a .507 average to go with eight home runs and 43 runs batted in. Noel (.370, 29 RBIs) and third baseman Chris Patin (.367) are other SJHS leaders.
University of New Orleans signee Hunter Medine (6-2), another lefty, is the top pitcher and is expected to get the start Thursday for Ascension Catholic.
Medine, third baseman James Martin and shortstop D.J. Latino are the Bulldogs offensive leaders.
First-year Ascension Christian coach Paul Burgard said either Brennan Perkins or Seth Gaudin will start for the Lions on Thursday. Pitcher-first baseman Tyler Delaune, pitcher-outfielder Brock Gonzales and Perkins are Gonzales-based ACH’s offensive leaders.
“I came in about a week before the season and was told not to expect much,” Burgard said. “We got a late start, and these guys have exceeded my expectations. The Gonzales area has always produced quality baseball players. This group knows the game, and I think three or four of them have a chance to play at the next level if they want to.”
Regardless of what happens during the next week, all three coaches said the playoff picture for 9-1A is bright.
“St. John figures to get a high seed, and I think we’ll be in the middle of the pack,” Landry said.
“Ascension Christian and West St. John should be lower and that’ll be misleading.
“Nobody should want to draw them. The records don’t matter. Those teams are both capable of beating a top 10 seed.”