Its hard to ignore the playoff notions that surround District 7-2A as it heads into the final two weeks of the regular season.
The district’s top three teams — Runnels, Doyle and St. Thomas Aquinas — sit atop the LHSAA’s unofficial Class 2A power rankings. With such a lineup, winning the district title might be as difficult as winning a state championship.
“It just makes it that much more fun, especially since we have to play (St. Thomas Aquinas and Doyle) the last couple of weeks of the season” Runnels coach Tookie Johnson said.
Runnels (15-3, 6-0) has already swept district series with French Settlement, Springfield and St. Helena. The Raiders play a two-game set with STA this week before closing with Doyle the following week.
Runnels hosts St. Thomas Aquinas (19-6, 5-1) at 4 p.m. Tuesday. The return game at STA is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. Rainy weather, always a factor, has the schools keeping all playing options open.
A worst-case scenario, with unplayable conditions in Baton Rouge, would have the teams playing a doubleheader Thursday in Hammond. The Falcons recently installed a turf field, which could quickly be readied for play after inclement weather.
“It wouldn’t be ideal for us, but we have to get the games in,” Johnson said.
Defending district champion Doyle (18-4, 4-2) has already played a memorable series with St. Thomas Aquinas this season.
Doyle nipped STA 2-1 in 17 innings at Hammond on March 31. The Falcons came back to earn a split with a 7-3 win at Doyle. The 17-inning contest was vintage Doyle, which relies on pitching and defense.
“We just go out and hope to score four runs. Our pitching has been pretty good all year,” said Doyle coach Tim Beatty, whose squad has a team ERA of 2.11.
Leading the way for Doyle is senior left-hander Tyler Pigott (5-0), who has a 0.74 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 47 innings. Pigott went nine innings in the first game against STA but didn’t get the decision.
Pigott scattered eight hits in nine innings allowing one run while striking out 13. Trey Fontenot scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 17th on a Falcons error.
Hilton Savoy, who threw eight innings of relief, got a game-ending double play in the bottom of the inning to secure the win.
Savoy (7-1) has a 2.21 ERA. Justin Ridgedell is also a top pitcher and is Doyle’s leading hitter with a .329 average. Leadoff batter Fontenot hits .324 and is the team’s sparkplug, Beatty said.
Johnson plans to start his ace, Hunter Amedee, in the first game with St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders have several batters hitting over .300 including Johnny Johnson (.360, four home runs), Thomas Meyers (.393), and Hampton Hudson (.365, two home runs).
“I can’t think of a better way for all three of us to be prepared for the playoffs than to play each other right here at the end,” Johnson said. “I think it will come down to who plays better on that particular day.”
Doyle, which needs help to repeat as district champion, is hoping Runnels and STA split their two games. The Tigers would then need to sweep French Settlement and Runnels to close the season.
Beatty wishes the power rankings would factor in district titles.
“Its kind of frustrating as far as the power ratings go because you don’t get any bonus for winning the district,” he said. “We’re just trying to stay in the top four or five and get ready for the playoffs.”