Sidney Parfait, state chairman for American Legion baseball in Louisiana, is not prone to making bold predictions.
But neither is he bashful about sharing an opinion.
It is Parfait’s belief that the 10-team field which will gather in mid-July at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium to determine a state champion faces a more demanding challenge than that presented two weeks later in the Mid-South Regional tournament scheduled for early August in Tampa, Floria.
“I think we’ve got some tough districts this year,’’ said Parfait, who has 36 years of American Legion experience as he enters his seventh summer as state chairman. “There are no easy games in this league this year. All of the districts and division are going to be competitive. Sometimes you have teams that are rebuilding, but there are no teams rebuilding this summer.
“I think it’s going to be harder for a team to win the state championship in Louisiana than it’s going to be for the team that wins the Mid-South Regional.’’
Legion play begins Memorial Day with 24 programs statewide operating out of five districts or divisions beginning pursuit of those 10 berths in the July 12-18 state tournament.
In the New Orleans area, which falls under the Southeast Louisiana Region, 17 teams will compete in the First District, Second District East and Second District West along with three more teams from Gonzales and Houma comprising the Southeast Division.
There are some new looks to the three local leagues with Rummel-based Malcolm Dienes LLC and the Lakeshore Titans joining Jesuit-based Retif Oil and Holy Cross-based Ponstein’s in the four-team First District.
Rummel traditionally had competed in the Second District East but moved into the First District to replace Warren Easton, which is not playing this summer.
Lakeshore is making its Legion baseball debut as a replacement for De La Salle, while Ponstein’s returns after a year’s hiatus from First District play.
A state tournament participant a year ago, De La Salle withdrew from Legion play this summer after the recent resignation of coach Rowland Skinner.
The independent-based Pedal Valves Cardinals, state champions in 2017, have moved into Rummel’s slot in the five-team Second District East after previously competing in the Second District West.
Joining the Cardinals in the Second East are Shaw-based Refuel, the John Curtis-based River Ridge Patriots, Chalmette-based Gulf Coast Bank and Hahnville-based Otto Candies.
St. Charles Catholic-based Townsend Homes, Destrehan-based ES&H, East St. John-based Jugy’s, the Lutcher-based Noranda Bulldogs and the Riverside-based Reserve Athletics make up the five-team Second District West with Reserve replacing Pedal Valves.
Reigning state champion Gauthier Amedee, based at East Ascension, the Covenant Christian Southland Hogs and Vandebilt Catholic-based GIS Engineering comprise the Southeast Division.
Rummel-based Malcolm Dienes, Holy Cross-based Ponstein’s and Shaw-based Refuel also feature new coaches in Frank Cazeaux, Andy Cannizaro and Doug Faust. Cazeaux and Faust are beginning second stints with their programs.
All 17 teams are scheduled to play 11 games against Southeast Region opponents during a month-long regular season. District and division games are used to determine seeding in the tournaments that are scheduled for July 5-8.
Monday’s opening game pair Jugy’s against Otto Candies at 5 p.m. at Hahnville, River Ridge vs. Reserve at 5 p.m. at Riverside along with a 5 p.m. doubleheader at Kirsch-Rooney pairing GIS Engineering against Malcolm Dienes at 5 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. meeting between Gauthier Amedee and Retif Oil.
Play continues Tuesday with Lakeshore playing ES&H at 4:30 p.m. at Destrehan and Reserve facing Jugy’s at 5 p.m. at East St. John along with another 5 p.m. doubleheader at Kirsch-Rooney pairing Gulf Coast Bank against Ponstein’s in the opener followed by the Southland Hogs against Pedal Valves at 7.
Refuel and Noranda begin Southeast Region play Wednesday with Refuel hosting to ES&H at 7 p.m. at Shaw and Noranda playing host to Otto Candies at 5 p.m. at Lutcher.
Townsend Homes plays its first Southeast Region game on Thursday versus Lakeshore at 5 p.m. at Kirsch-Rooney.
The top two teams emerging from each of the five district or division tournaments then advance to the July 12-18 double-elimination, state tournament at Kirsch-Rooney.
The state champion moves on to compete in the Mid-South Regional scheduled for Aug. 7-11 in Tampa, Florida.
Eight regional champions then advance to the American Legion World Series scheduled for Aug. 15-18 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
There is legitimate reason to support Parfait’s rational regarding the degree of difficulty anticipated in earning a state crown.
Sixteen of the 17 teams scheduled to compete in the Southeast Region advanced to the LHSAA state playoffs. The 17th is Pedal Valves, an independent entry, which won the 2018 state Legion crown.
St. Charles Catholic, base school for Townsend Homes, won the Division II state championship. Rummel, base school for Malcolm Diennes LLC, was a Division I finalist and newcomer Lakeshore was a Class 4A state finalist.
Additionally, Destrehan, base school for ES&H, advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals while John Curtis, base school for River Ridge, and Holy Cross, base school for Ponstein’s, each advanced to the Division I quarterfinals.
Jesuit-based Retif Oil was a Division I regional team in addition to finishing last summer as state runner-up to Gauthier Amedee, which won the Mid-South Regional also held at Kirsch-Rooney before advancing to the semifinals of the American Legion World Series.
“I just think the state tournament is going to be competitive all the way down the line,’’ Parfait said. “There are no pushovers.’’