Several area baseball teams at home _lowres

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG St. Michael baseball coach Johnny Bernhard talks to baserunner Christopher Reid last season.

Scott Allen says anyone who wants to win the District 6-4A baseball title will have to go through St. Michael the Archangel.

Allen’s Plaquemine High squad gets an early start on that task. The Green Devils (13-5) travel to defending champion St. Michael (12-7) for a 6-4A opener set for 4 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re like most teams, we’ve been up-and-down,” Allen said. “We’ve had some wins over some good teams, like Brusly and Livonia, and lost to some teams that aren’t as good. A lot depends on whether we show up and are focused.

“That really shouldn’t be a problem for this one. St. Michael graduated some talented players, and I think the talent level overall is more balanced with us, them and Lutcher. But they’re still the team to beat.”

A four-team district dictated a later start for the District 6-4A season than for most local districts. It also gave the three frontrunners a chance to play high-powered nondistrict competition. Lutcher (9-11) hosts Tara (0-12) in the other 6-4A opener also at 4 p.m. All four teams meet again at the opposite school site Thursday.

St. Michael played a number of top 5A foes, including Catholic High and registered a notable win over Jesuit. It was all part of coach Johnny Bernhard’s plan.

“We always try to play the toughest schedule we can to get us ready for district,” Bernhard said. “We’ve been very pleased so far. We’re playing a lot of sophomores and don’t have as much experience as we’ve had in the past. This group has responded.

“Our starting pitchers and defense are our strengths. Those guys (pitchers Tyler Ezell and John Lofton) got a lot of experience last year. We knew Plaquemine would have pretty much their entire team coming back. And we knew Lutcher would be improved. We expect this to be a three-horse race.”

Allen plans to start either Joe Keller (5-2) or Brusly transfer Devin Washington (4-1). Bernhard is set to counter with Ezell (5-0), a closer who has transitioned into a starter this spring.

Third baseman Chris Reid, an LSU signee, helps lead St. Michael. Reid is hitting .409 with two home runs and five stolen bases. He teams with shortstop Nolan Tiersch and second baseman Dwayne Varisco to give the Warriors a solid defensive infield.

First baseman Michael Smith, a first-year starter, leads St. Michael with a .433 average and 14 RBIs. Tiersch is at .382 and has scored 24 runs.

Keller also plays third base and leads Plaquemine with a .453 average. Center fielder Ethan King (.411) and catcher Chris Cox (.408. two HRs, 13 RBIs) also lead the Green Devils.

“Everything we’ve done leads up to district and this game,” Bernhard said. “Now it’s here.”