A year ago, Brennan Grant was a closer who didn’t get many opportunities. Now the senior is a starting pitcher-infielder who is helping fifth-seeded St. Amant High close out with a second straight state tourney berth.

The fifth-seeded Gators (29-8) face top-seeded Barbe (37-2) in a Class 5A semifinal set for 7 p.m. Friday that helps close the second day of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Baseball tourney at Sulphur’s McMurry Park.

“It’s a totally different mindset,” said Grant, who is 7-2 on the mound. “When you’re a closer, you go out and put everything you have into it, because you’re only going to pitch maybe an inning.

“As a starter you have to pace yourself. Early in the year I’d get tired after three or four innings. I’ve had games later in the year where I threw 130 or 140 pitches, and it didn’t bother me. I got used to it.”

Gators coach Troy Templet credits Grant for impacting the team not only with his pitching, but also with his leadership.

“He’s the first guy out there when we need to work the field, and he’ll lead the team through warm-up exercises,” Templet said. “It’s not something we ever asked him to do. Brennan has become a vocal leader. He understands the game and why the coaches make some of the moves we make, which is important.”

Another pitcher, current Northwestern State player Austin Tanner, played the lead role for St. Amant a year ago. Because Tanner typically pitched complete games, save opportunities were limited.

As his senior year began, Grant said he assumed more of a leadership role naturally.

“I came into this year knowing I was a senior and needed to take on more responsibility,” Grant said. “That’s something I think we (seniors) have tried to do all year.

“Even though my role is bigger this year because I’m a starter, I also know it’s all about the team. We’ve got three or four guys who are capable of doing a great job on the mound. We have confidence in each other. We all have roles.”

Grant is an honor student who plans to major in chemical engineering and will be a preferred walk-on at Louisiana Tech next year. Walking onto the field at McMurry Park on Friday is a role Grant relishes. The fact the Gators are facing a Barbe team that is ranked No. 1 nationally is no deterrent.

“We have to take it like any other game,” Grant said. “We know they are a great team. We need to play our game.”