Advocate staff photo by John Oubre -- Livonia's Patrick Queen beats the throw to Brusly's Luke LeBlanc at first base last month. LeBlanc could be the starting pitcher for the Panthers when they take on Evangel in a Class 3A semifinal playoff game Friday.

Two days before the school’s actual graduation Brusly High went through its traditional commencement practice that included six classmates that weren’t going to be around for big night Friday.

Kwanstan Adkins, Brennan Allen, Landon Andre, Luke LeBlanc, Blake Manola and Beau Witty will be in Sulphur representing No. 6 Brusly (25-8) in the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament at 6 p.m. against No. 2 Evangel Christian Academy (27-9) at McMurry Park.

Instead of having to miss out on one of the biggest nights of their lives school officials surprised the group of players, hiding their family members at school during the practice until making a special announcement.

“At the end of practice, they told the special guests to come out and surprised the players,” Brusly baseball coach Tait Dupont said. “They actually graduated that day. It was really emotional.”

District 7-3A counterpart — University High — will also be on hand when the fourth-seeded Cubs (25-9) face top-seeded John Curtis (31-6) in another Class 3A state semifinal at 3 o’clock at McMurry Park.

“They’re just like any good team,” U-High coach Burke Broussard said of Curtis. “They’ve got really good pitching, play good defense and have people that can hit throughout their lineup.”

BRUSLY VS.EVANGEL: Brusly is making its second straight state tournament trip and third in five years. The Panthers have not won a state championship since the mid 1970’s.

“Five of our six seniors started last year and played in that environment,” Dupont said. “We played in a tournament in Sulphur the year before last, so we’re familiar with the field and we know what to expect this year. I think we’re going to be ready to play.”

Evangel won its fifth state championship last season, defeating U-High 2-0 for the Class 2A title.

The Eagles have won four straight games and 17 of their past 19, including back-to-back shutouts of St. Louis and St. Charles.

Dupont plans to start either LeBlanc (10-2, 1.05 ERA, 77 strikeouts, 63 innings) or Landon Blank (7-1, 1.82, 51 strikeouts, 46 innings) with relief help from Evan Daigle (4-2, five saves, 2.34 ERA, 39 strikeouts, 39 innings).

Adkins, a Northwestern State signee, leads the Panthers offensively with a .340 average, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. They will also count on Allen (.349, three 2Bs, 10 RBIs), Austin Watts (.366, six 2Bs, 28 RBIs), Daigle (.309, 13 2Bs, 24 RBIs) and LeBlanc (.300, 9 2Bs, 24 RBIs).

“We’re going to have to pitch and play good defense and that’s pretty much the M.O. of our team,” Dupont said. “We feel we match up well with them. We’ve just got to go and play well.”

U-HIGH vs. CURTIS: A year after playing for it all in Class 2A, U-High’s back again with the hopes of sending Broussard out with his first state title. The 16-year Cubs coach has announced this would be his final season.

To reach that objective U-High must get through John Curtis, which has won its last six games and eight of its last nine.

Curtis, playing in its first semifinal since 2010, features a team with a .356 batting average, 18 homers, averages nine runs per game and has thrown 11 shutouts.

Shortstop Brandt Broussard and catcher James Kern top a team are both batting .404 for the Cubs, who are hitting.298 as a team. Broussard has 12 RBIs and leads the club with 26 stolen bases, while Kern has 10 doubles a team-high 26 RBIs.

John Lewis (9-2, 1.29 ERA, 59 strikeouts, 65 innings) is the scheduled starter for the Cubs, who extended their winning streak to 11 with back-to-back road playoff wins.

“If you’re a competitor, you want to play the best in a great atmosphere,” Broussard said. “I know every one of our kids dreams about playing in these type of games.”