As the 2012 Class 5A State Baseball Tournament gets underway Friday at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium, the state’s coaches are working on their strategies.
Some are hoping to figure out a way to beat the rain that is predicted to drench some of the action. And they’re all trying to figure out how to beat Barbe.
Barbe is the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A bracket, the defending state champion, the No. 1-ranked team in the state’s coaches poll and the No. 8 team in the nation according to Baseball America. So understandably, the team to beat.
The Bucs are 33-3 with a roster full of talent, including ace pitcher Sloan Dieter, a senior who transferred from St. Mary’s of Natchitoches, where he won a Class 1A title as a sophomore. But it’s not just Barbe’s pitching that has coaches scratching their heads.
Bucs coach Glenn Cecchini is known for his aggressive, all-out, in-your-face style of play. The “B” at Barbe often stands for bunt, which the Bucs do often — sometimes shocking baseball aficionados.
At the 2006 state tournament played in Lafayette, Cecchini had the nonparticipating coaches in the stands agog after a player doubled and the coach called for a bunt to move him to third, then a squeeze play to send him home — in the first inning.
“The coaches like to bunt and move the runners, which they do a lot a very well,” said Brother Martin coach Mark Wisniewski, whose team is the lone New Orleans competitor in this weekend’s tournament. “They do what they want to do very well.”
“It’s a constant pressure,” said Dutchtown coach Chris Schexnaydre, whose team dropped a 7-5 decision to the Bucs this season. “You know if they get a runner on they’re going to bunt, they’re going to run, they’re going to steal. You can never sit back and relax. They don’t let up on you, and they don’t make mistakes.”
And what that does is create a Barbe mystique. The Bucs have won six state titles, have been finalists seven times and have been nationally ranked eight years in a row.
“They play with a moxie, you know,” said Zachary coach Jesse Cassard, who spent four years as an assistant under Cecchini and has found success against his mentor. Zachary edged Barbe 14-13 in nine innings this season and has taken three of the past four meetings.
“They just have an air about them that, they expect to win. It’s like West Monroe in football and Scotlandville in basketball. They expect to win, state tournament or not. ”
“We have a history; we have a tradition,” he said. “We believe we are going to win. And we’re never going to play not to win or not to lose.”
No one is exactly conceding this year’s championship to the Bucs, however. Barbe will face No. 9 West Monroe at 1 p.m. Friday.
“We are playing some good baseball right now. The kids have really come together,” West Monroe coach Ross Blankenship said after his 8-0 victory over Haughton. “But don’t get me wrong, we are not content to just be there. We are going to New Orleans to win a state championship.”
“Anybody can be beaten,” Wisniewski said. “They’re obviously a very good ballclub. Still if you pitch well and play defense you always have a shot.”
“We’re confident,” Cassard said. “I learned from Glen Cecchini, how to treat the kids and the work ethic. And we always stay on the cutting edge and try to make our kids better. And I guess you could say learned the small ball system — how to bunt, when to bunt, when to run, how to run and never really overlooking anything. We cover everything and everything matters.”
So to those coaches looking for the answer to the confounding question of how to beat Barbe, Cecchini offers this advice:
“You have to bring your ‘A’ game,” he said. “We’re not going to give you anything. People know how we play.”