Will playoffs be easier without Barbe? Likely not!

It has been six years since a Catholic League school has won the Class 5A baseball championship.
 
It seems like Barbe’s bad boys have ruled the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s highest class longer than that short period of time.
 
In 2011, Jesuit pulled off three, one-run victories to win the title. The Blue Jays beat Barbe, 2-1; then eliminated another former state champion, Catholic High, 3-2, in the semis; and finally won the championship with a 5-4 victory over the No. 2 seed, Lafayette.

Jesuit was the No. 4 seed at the time. Today the Blue Jays are the No. 3 seed in a watered-down playoff model shrunk to 13 teams by virtue of the separate playoff rule that went into effect for the first time for this sport.

Local Catholic schools will no longer have to contend with the Lake Charles behemoth that has won eight state championships since 1998 and was given the mythical title of National Champion in 2014 by one prep service.

That tribute notwithstanding, meeting Barbe in the playoffs for “select” schools, in which 13 non-public schools in Division I are a part, is now a fleeting memory.

So it should be easier for one of two teams from the Catholic League to meet for a divisional championship. Right?

Not likely. The Catholic school with the best chance of making it through the state tournament in Sulphur unscathed is De La Salle in Division II.

But that won’t be an easy task despite the Cavaliers’ fine 15-3 record and No. 3 seeding in their division.

The top two seeds are E.D. White and Loyola Prep of Shreveport, both formidable foes. But Division II is also stocked with yearly powers Teurlings Catholic, Vandebilt Catholic, University Lab, St. Thomas More and Parkview Baptist – enough “holy wars” to make a strong man cringe.

Yet, the Cavs have a shot once they get past Lutcher for their district’s title.

The long dry spell
Getting to Sulphur to play in the state Division I semifinals is one thing, but making it to the finals will be just as difficult as it had been in a common playoff system.

The top two seeds in Division I are Catholic High, which last won the Class 5A title in 2013 and is sitting pretty as the No. 1 seed, and No. 2 John Curtis, the team favored to top the Catholic League.

The River Ridge school carries a 15-4 record, which includes a two-game sweep of Brother Martin by the unlikely scores of 11-1 and 10-0 last week.

Five are left to test their skills against the No. 2 seed.

➤ Entering the week, No. 3 Jesuit has a 15-6 record, reflected by losses to opponents of comparable ability. Jesuit’s trademarks have been a solid pitching corps and the Jays’ ability to play flawlessly on defense. But the test will come on April 8 and 10 when they meet Curtis in a two-game series.

➤ No. 5 Brother Martin (11-6-1) needs to get over its district-opening losses.

The Crusaders won eight of their first nine games and rallied to tie Destrehan on March 17 after losing to the same Wildcats, 12-2, a week earlier. They just got off on the wrong foot when district play started.

➤ No. 6 Holy Cross (13-9) is slumping in district play. The Tigers defeated Jesuit, 7-1, to avenge an earlier 7-3 loss, but since have lost the first game of the series against Curtis, with a rematch that was scheduled for March 28.

➤ No. 7 Archbishop Rummel (15-6) was the hot team at the start of the season with eight consecutive victories before a 1-0 loss to St. Thomas More ended the streak in a Monroe tournament game. The Raiders then lost 10 of their first 12 games to prepare them for the tough Catholic League schedule.

➤ Then there is No. 8 St. Augustine (14-4). The Purple Knights started off well enough by winning their first nine games of the season and entered district play with a 14-2 record against the division’s lowest seed, Archbishop Shaw.

The Purple Knights’ bubble burst with back-to-back losses to the Eagles, who improved their record, if not standing, to 7-14 and dropped St. Aug into the district cellar.

So the absence of the “Beast of Lake Charles,” who will compete in the non-select Class 5A tournament, may hardly matter. Even without the specter of Barbe, the road to Sulphur will still be 200 miles of maneuvering past difficult playoff hurdles between here and there.

Crusaders Relays next
The field is almost set for the annual Crusaders Relays, hosted by Brother Martin at Tad Gormley Stadium on March 31. Hopefully, it doesn’t suffer the same fate as last week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl Track and Field Classic, which was canceled halfway through the meet because of lightning and constant thunderstorms.

The Crusaders’ field of competitors will include Holy Cross, Archbishop Rummel, Jesuit, St. Augustine, St. Stanislaus, De La Salle, Carver, West Jefferson and host Brother Martin.

Meet coordinator Brad Duplechain said more teams may be added and noted that seven field events will begin at 4 p.m. The 11 running events will follow at 6 p.m.

Although the Sugar Bowl meet’s track and field teams and athletes from seven southern states have dominated competition, spectators in attendance missed out on seeing several local high school athletes who have and will again compete for medals at the LHSAA State Track and Field Championships May 5-7 in Baton Rouge.

The fans were anxious to see a rematch between sprint and middle distance runners Jermie Walker of Rummel (48.76) and Jesuit’s Jandon Briscoe (47.89) in the 400-meter dash. The two, with identical times of 21.90, were also scheduled to duel in the 200-meter dash.

The good news is that this rivalry may resume at the Crusader Relays.

Other championship class athletes who were unable to perform included Rummel’s Ja’Marr Chase in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the long jump; St. Paul’s multi-champion distance runner, Eric Coston, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters; De La Salle’s Accord Green, who as sophomore last year for Holy Rosary School, won the Class C shotput gold medal, finished second in the javelin and discus and fourth in the 200-meter dash; Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Claire Moreau, runner-up in the Class 3A high jump and javelin throw, and one of the top hurdlers in her class; Ursuline Academy’s Alysia Terry, the 2016 Class 4A triple jump champion, who was also scheduled to compete in the long jump and 100-meter dash; pole vaulter Kalee Jo Banks of Ursuline, Cabrini’s speedy Taylor Mumford and Sacred Heart’s distance specialist Mary Nusloch.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org

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