Teurlings Catholic baseball coach Mike Thibodeaux doesn’t like the phrase “small ball” to describe the brand of baseball the Rebels play. He prefers the words “team” or “smart” to go in front of the word “ball.”
And, really, there’s no reason to argue with his phrasing because the results are unmatched in the Acadiana area.
Teurlings has won five state championships in this decade, including three straight. Even on the biggest stages, the Rebels' style is the same: They will bunt and run on opponents until they unravel. Last year’s 10-3 victory against University High in the Division II final was a perfect example of that.
However, Thibodeaux acknowledges that style of play sets an expectation on the players that come through his program. Even if a certain team doesn’t have the natural speed and athleticism that others might, it doesn’t mean Teurlings isn’t going to do what it’s known for.
Fortunately for this year’s Rebels, sitting at 10-3 after winning their past nine games, their execution of “team ball” has been sharp despite not having great speed throughout the roster.
“We don’t measure up on the stopwatch like we’ve been in the past,” Thibodeaux said. “Honestly, it’s not our fastest team. It’s one of the slowest groups I’ve had. But they’re understanding how to execute and what we have to do to have a chance to win ball games."
That execution is starting to translate on the scoreboard. During Teurlings’ nine-game win streak, it is averaging nearly eight runs per game. It’s a contrast to how the Rebels began the season, when they averaged only 2.5 runs per game during a 1-3 start.
That response to that slow start has been what’s impressed Thibodeaux the most.
“The first week of the season, the schedule had a lot to do with it, but we just didn’t play very good baseball," said Thibodeaux, named National Coach of the Year by MaxPreps and the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2016. "But they’ve responded, and you’re seeing it in practice as well as in the game.”
What’s contributed to the response is players embracing new or bigger roles. The only two returning position players that were full-time starters throughout last year are Peyton Lejeune and Dain Turner. Turner is the Rebels’ primary catcher, while Lejeune, the LSWA’s Most Outstanding Player in Class 4A last year, stars on both the mound and at shortstop.
On Lejeune, Thibodeaux said he’s not been “more impressed with a high school ball player since I’ve been Teurlings than I am with him at this part of his senior season.”
“He’s on that level with those kinds of players that are getting it done at a higher level than most of the kids that have come through this program,” the coach said, “but with less around him.”
Two other key returners are senior Landon Trosclair and senior Cameron Delhomme. Trosclair didn’t become a full-time starter until late in district player last year, but now serves as the Rebels’ everyday center fielder and two-hole hitter and contributes some on the mound.
Delhomme was a part of the Rebels’ rotation last year and has maintained that spot this year behind Lejeune and Braxton Gallet. But Delhomme, who served as a designated hitter at times last year, now has a permanent spot in the order and plays second base when he’s not pitching.
Gallet, aside from being Teurlings’ No. 2 starter, is a utility infielder whose brought more consistency on offense as of late, Thibodeaux said.
The key for Teurlings as they near district play is establishing depth on the mound. A number of younger players, such as sophomores Oakley Bourque, Ben Tate and Kaden Boulet, are fighting for time out of the bullpen. Connor Macip, a junior, also has the tools to be formidable reliever.
“He’s got the body for it. He’s got the arm,” Thibodeaux said of Macip. “We’re just trying to groom him into becoming a strike-thrower. If that happens, he could be something special for us, but it’s a work in progress.”