For East Jefferson, it is one of the biggest baseball games in almost a decade.
And for Edna Karr, it is the biggest baseball game … well, ever.
East Jefferson will host Karr on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a Class 4A regional playoff game.
The winner of the all-New Orleans area battle advances to the quarterfinals.
The Warriors (21-10) haven’t been to the quarterfinals since 2003. The Cougars (22-1) won their first playoff game in school history in the first round.
“It will be the biggest crowd we have had in some time,” East Jefferson coach Brent Whittington said. “It’s huge. Two metro area public schools having a chance to go to the quarterfinals would be a big boost for either program.”
Despite the magnitude of the game, Karr coach Donnie Russell is trying to get his team to treat it like just a regular game. But having led his team to the best season in school history, it’s not.
“Every game going forward is a big game,” Russell said. “We are in unchartered territory. We know there is a lot at stake, but we are not going to get caught up into all of that. We see it as just another game. We are not going to strategize any differently, and we will go through our same routine.”
Russell shouldn’t have any trouble motivating his team. Karr’s only loss this season was 10-7 to East Jefferson.
“We’re returning to the crime scene,” Russell said with a laugh before focusing on what East Jefferson excels at.
“The biggest thing about them is that they are just so fundamentally sound,” Russell said. “They don’t do anything to beat themselves.”
East Jefferson, a No. 26 seed, went on the road and knocked off No. 7 seed Franklinton in the bidistrict round to get to the regional round.
“That was a great upset for us,” Whittington said. “We had great pitching and that was obviously the difference in the game. They battled all night long and kept those guys off balance.”
Junior pitchers Jimmy Prieur and Dominic Giovingo combined to get the win over Franklinton. Those two pitchers, along with junior Austin Hibbs and sophomore Brad Randazzo, have played a key role in what has been somewhat of a surprising season for the Warriors.
They graduated nine seniors from last year’s team and returned just two starters.
“We knew we were going to be young and inexperienced,” said Whittington, in his eighth season as head coach. “But we also knew that all four of our pitchers would be coming back. So we knew we had to rely on pitching and defense. We feel like the last few weeks we have been playing our best baseball of the season.”
Prieur, who is batting .400 to go with his 33 RBIs, leads East Jefferson, along with Giovingo (.377) and senior second baseman Jonathan Manos (.363).
Karr is led by sophomore sensation Tyree Thompson, who is 11-0 this season with 114 strikeouts. He struck out 10 last week and also drove in the game-winning run that gave Karr its first playoff victory last week against Plaquemine.
“He throws really hard and has a live arm,” Whittington said.
D’Monte Carter (batting over .500), third baseman Tyler Reid, catcher D’Andre Williams and center fielder Jarid Montgomery lead the Cougars. But it’s what the Cougars do once they get on base that gives Whittington the most concern: Karr has stolen close to 200 bases this season.
“They swing the bats well and put a lot of pressure on you when they get on base,” Whittington said. “You have to try to keep them off the bases, because when they get on, they can give you some headaches.”
The winner advances to the quarterfinals to play the winner of Tuesday’s Crowley-West Ouachita game.
East Jefferson is chasing its fourth state title and first since the school won it all in 1971, 1972 and 1978.
The school is also looking to continue what has been a stellar athletic school year.
East Jefferson won a state title in football (beating Karr in the title game) and also reached the title game in boys basketball.
“With the athletic success we have had, it would be a great way to cap off the school year,” Whittington said.
Follow Rod Walker on Twitter @rwalkeradvocate