When he took over Episcopal’s baseball program last season, Travis Bourgeois already had a built-in appreciation for game’s the finer points.
Bourgeois, the school’s longtime football coach, surrounded himself with like-minded people with the intention of teaching the game the way he played it — a heavy dose of fundamentals and selfless play.
More than year later, Bourgeois believes Episcopal (15-5) is rounding into the type program he envisioned, one that opens District 8-2A play at Runnels (4-9), Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Christian Life Academy (10-10-1) travels to The Dunham School (4-17) in the league’s other game at 6 p.m.
“Everything takes time. We did some things last year they weren’t accustomed to,” said Bourgeois, who is assisted by Sean Teague and Brett Bailey. “Sometimes it takes a while to buy into. Now they trust us and we trust them.”
Bourgeois said he modeled his approach after Vanderbilt, which won the 2014 national championship and was the national runner-up a year ago.
“Their lineup, one through nine, can hit and run and bunt,” he said. “That’s what the game has become. We’ve tried to teach them that it’s the best nine that are going to play and give us a chance to win. It’s a matter of accepting your role and doing the best you can.”
Episcopal, which lost 4-3 to Newman in the opening round of the Class 2A state playoffs a year ago, opened the season 9-3 before running into their only bout of adversity thus far.
Playing without leading hitter Chris Beckman Jr., the Knights dropped back-to-back games to University High (6-4) and Brusly (14-4) within a four-hour span of the Ascension Catholic tournament.
“There’s a lot of maturity with this team,” Bourgeois said. “We were able to bounce back the last two weeks and play consistent baseball. This is such a game where you have to deal with failure. After that rough Saturday we had with those two games our kids have responded really well to the challenges from that day.”
Episcopal wrapped up its preparation for the start of district play with a 2-1 showing over the weekend in Alexandria. The Knights rebounded from a 3-2 loss to Opelousas Catholic with a 7-0 win over St. Mary’s and 13-2 verdict against Grace Christian.
Right-handed pitcher Chris Thibodeaux (5-1, 0.92 ERA, 45 Ks in 36 innings) is Episcopal’s scheduled starter on Tuesday with either Clayton Talbot or Matthew Garrett starting in Thursday’s home rematch with Runnels at 6 p.m.
Beckman, a recent second-team all-state basketball selection, tops the Knights offensively with a .467 average, 2 homers and 14 RBIs followed by catcher Wayne Stabiler (.444, 2 HRs, 25 RBIs) and second baseman Nick Patty (.388, 11 RBIs).
“The kids have executed better this year,” Bourgeois said. “They’ve having more success, and success breeds confidence. They’re playing with that confidence right now.”