There was little to suggest that Episcopal School of Acadiana’s baseball team was on the verge of snapping a nine-year drought without a state playoff victory.
The No. 20 Falcons had dropped their last four regular- season games before heading on the road where they upset No. 13 Holden 6-4 in a Class B first-round playoff opener Tuesday.
It was the first postseason win for ESA (11-13) since reaching the 2007 state quarterfinals, but the Falcons hope to build on their latest triumph when they visit No. 4 Zwolle in second-round action at 5 p.m. Friday.
“Zwolle wanted to play on Thursday,” ESA coach Mark Broussard said. “We needed a day to enjoy it. They’re walking with a pep in their step and proud of what they accomplished. I hope they take it into Friday and play just as hard and not be afraid.”
No. 14 Catholic-New Iberia is another area team with a tough road assignment. The Panthers (18-11) travel to Monroe to face No. 3 Ouachita Christian (21-10) in a best-of-three Class 2A state regional at 6 p.m. Friday.
“I think every round presents a challenge,” Catholic-NI coach David Jordan said. “We had a lot of first-time players on the field (4-0 first-round win over Country Day) that had been in the dugout for the playoffs, so I was concerned about that. This is a challenge of having to travel and facing a talented team.”
EPISCOPAL SCHOOL OF ACADIANA-ZWOLLE: Part of ESA’s four-game losing streak before the playoffs included a 9-6 road loss against Holden. The Falcons also suffered a 7-0 shutout at the hands of the Rockets on March 20.
ESA rallied from a 1-0 deficit with five runs and relied on the combined pitching effort of 6-foot-5 Mason Shuffler (four-plus innings) and 5-5 Clark Patrone (three innings) to close the team’s first win at Holden in a decade.
“We felt we could play with them if we had a good defensive game and pitched well,” Broussard said. “That’s something we hadn’t done all year. We hadn’t put a whole game together until now. It happened at the right time.”
Shuffler (3-3, 4.72 ERA, 52 strikeouts) and Patrone (5-1, 3.16, 23 strikeouts) represent ESA’s top pitchers. Meanwhile, Patrone (.358, four doubles, 16 RBIs) and Shuffler (.341, five doubles, 11 RBIs) lead the team offensively, along with center fielder Luke Naquin (.316, five doubles, 18 RBIs).
CATHOLIC-NEW IBERIA-OUACHITA CHRISTIAN: For the first year Class 2A-3A are joining 4A-5A in conducting best-of-three series, and Jordan couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve never been more relaxed,” he said. “If they beat us two out of three, they deserve it. If we beat them, then we deserve it. There’s less chance of a bad day sending you home, and that happens in baseball probably more than any sport.”
Jordan said he will start sophomore left-hander Brock Romero (5-2, 1.89 ERA, 34 strikeouts) against Ouachita Christian, which won the Class 1A state title a year ago and features LSU shortstop signee Jake Slaughter.
The Panthers counter with Louisiana Tech signee JT Migues (.349, eight doubles, four homers, 23 RBIs) at third base, catcher Kent Langlinais (.341, 25 RBIs), second baseman TJ Norris (.341), Romero (.329) and right fielder Luke Verrett (.324).
Acadiana at Lafayette, 4 p.m. Friday
Livonia at Teurlings, Friday, 4:30 p.m.
Beau Chene at St. Michael’s, 4 p.m. Friday
South Terrebonne at Breaux Bridge, 6 p.m. Friday
Crowley at Benton, 6 p.m. Friday
Iota at E.D. White, 4 p.m. Friday
Lutcher at Eunice, 5 p.m. Friday
University at Erath, 6 p.m. Friday
Kinder at Notre Dame, 6:30 p.m. Friday
Catholic-New Iberia at Ouachita Christian, 6 p.m. Friday
St. Edmund at Covenant Christian, 6 p.m. Friday
St. John at Vermilion Catholic, 1 p.m. Saturday
Grand Lake at Central Catholic-MC, 3 p.m. Saturday,
Ascension Episcopal at Ascension Catholic, 5:30 p.m. Saturday
ESA at Zwolle, 5 p.m. Friday