Catholic High baseball coach Brad Bass offers what might appear to be an overly blunt assessment of Denham Springs senior Travis Swaggerty.
“The guy’s just a baseball player,” Bass said. “Whatever they need, he’s the guy they look to. He can swing it, field and pitch. For me, calling a guy a baseball player is the best compliment you can give.”
All compliments will be put aside when second-seeded Catholic (34-3) hosts No. 7 Denham Springs (25-7) for a best-of-three Class 5A quarterfinal series that begins at 4 p.m. The Saturday’s games are set for 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Swaggerty has a similar respect for the Bears and insists that respect in the form of a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament is what’s at stake for both teams.
“We feel like we got a really good draw for the playoffs,” Swaggerty said. “We played Catholic early in the year, and it was a good game that went to extra innings (12 innings, a 6-3 Catholic win).
“Later in the season, I think we started playing with more of a chip on our shoulder. I think we felt like we should get more respect from some of the other teams in our district. I like our chances now.”
The left-hander helps lead the DSHS offense with a .466 batting average that includes nine doubles and four triples. He is 2-1 on the mound with a 31 strikeouts in 14.2 innings.
There is more to Swaggerty’s story than baseball. He carries a 4.0 grade-point average and plans an engineering major in college.
“I love pressure situations,” Swaggerty said. “I like being the guy the team looks to when it’s time to finish off a victory. I like to be the guy who’s up when the team needs a hit.”
The Yellow Jackets erased some of the sting from last season’s second-round playoff exit with a two-game sweep of Destrehan in a second-round series last weekend. Those wins followed a District 4-5A title in which DSHS defeated third-seeded Zachary and last year’s 5A runner-up, Live Oak.
Swaggerty credits the success of three starting pitchers, Bailey Holstein, Brock Batty and Evan Jordan for allowing him to settle in the closer’s role.
“Our starters have done a good job of getting us deep in games all year,” Swaggerty said. “They tried me as a starter at the beginning of the year, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m one of those guys if I throw an inning or two I’m done. I like that’s closer’s role.”
Swaggerty’s 5-foot-10, 175-pound frame is deceptive. He throws a fastball at around 92 mph.
“He showed a couple of flashes of what he could do as a sophomore,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “He had 78 mph fastball then, and now it’s in the low 90s. You don’t expect that from a guy his size. He’s a super good kid with good grades and he’s coachable. And that’s before you mention the talent he has.”
Carroll offers his own blunt assessment, saying Swaggerty has the best outfield arm he’s ever coached. Last month, Swaggerty caught a drive into the gap in a game against Zachary, whirled and threw out a runner who had tagged up at second base, looking to advance to third.
“We’ve had some guys with great arms here,” Carroll said. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Swaggerty’s focused on making sure the Yellow Jackets are the best team in the all-local matchup with the Bears.
“I think we can pitch with anybod,y and Catholic’s pitchers are very good,” Swaggerty said. “The team that puts together more offense will have the advantage. It’ll be a battle.”