When asked to compare his 2015 baseball team to one of the previous teams he’s coached, Brother Marin coach Mark Wisniewski thought one team in particular was the perfect comparison.
“One of the teams we looked at, as far as replacing a lot of guys, was that 1995-96 team had a lot of similarities with this year’s team,” said Wisniewski, speaking of the team he led in his first season as coach at Brother Martin. “That year, we lost eight or nine starters going in, and it took a while for us to come together.
“A couple of those kids started playing young, like we have this year, and their focus was to always play together. We have that exact same thing this year.”
Comparing this year’s team to that Brother Martin team from 19 years ago is quite a compliment coming from Wisniewski, considering that was the last time the Crusaders claimed a 5A title in baseball.
The Crusaders are making a trip to the semifinals for the first time since 2003, but Wisniewski isn’t concerned with the club falling into the shadow of accomplishments from past teams — they’ve already made their mark in school history.
The Crusaders lost five of their first six games to begin the season and finished in fourth place in the Catholic League after going 5-5 against District 9-5A opponents.
But Brother Martin now has won 12 of its past 14 games, including all five postseason games to advance to Friday’s semifinal game against No. 2-seeded Baton Rouge-Catholic (36-4) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament. Game time is set for 4 p.m. Friday at Sulphur’s McMurry Park.
“I think through the course of the season we just came together as a team,” said Brother Martin pitcher and LSU commitment Blair Frederick. “Once we got to the playoffs, everybody kept saying how we weren’t as good as last year because of our record in the Catholic League.
“I think that just made us want to prove everybody wrong.”
The No. 14-seeded Crusaders (24-11) will be trying to do that once again this weekend as they play the “underdog” role to one of the best teams in the state — and the No. 11 team in the nation in Catholic, according to MaxPreps.
“We finished fourth in Catholic League, lost seven starters from last year, everyone has been doubting us and saying this is our rebuilding year,” pitcher Corey Gaconi said.
“We’ve been building on that all year and kind of embracing it. It must be working, obviously, because look where we are now.”
Wisniewski said he has yet to decide whether he will be starting Frederick (6-3, 1.72 ERA in 57 innings) or Gaconi (2-2, 2.39 ERA in 29.1 innings) on the mound for Friday’s game, but whoever Wisniewski decides to start will most likely be matched up against one of the most accomplished pitching staffs in the state this year.
Ross Massey, a Tulane commitment, has been an extremely reliable ace for the Bears, amassing a 10-0 record with a 1.19 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 61 innings. Catholic’s other option on the mound could be junior Brian Fairbanks, who has a 6-0 record with a 2.64 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 45 innings.
“No matter whether it’s me or Corey pitching, we’re expecting a great duel (Friday),” Frederick said. “It’s just going to come down to who can swing it and who can get more of those tough runs on the board.”
The Catholic-Brother Martin winner face the winner of No. 1 Sulphur-No. 5 Barbe.