By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
Since we are on the doorstep of softball and baseball playoffs, let me make a few observations of what may be about to happen:
1. I expect to see Archbishop Hannan and St. Charles Catholic face off on one of the diamonds at Sulphur’s Frasch Park in the Division II semifinal round on the morning of April 28. The winner of that game will undoubtedly meet No. 1 seed Parkview Baptist for the championship that evening. And …
2. If there were a common baseball playoff, six Division I teams, which are automatic qualifiers in the select playoffs, would not make the post-season.
That group, whose power rankings are below the 32-team bracket minimums, are Byrd High, Evangel, St. Augustine, Scotlandville, Archbishop Shaw and McKinley.
In less than a month, the 2017-18 spring sports season will end.
The frantic, final 20 days begin with the state tennis tournament (April 23-27) and end with the division and class baseball championship tournament at McMurry Park, also in Sulphur, May 9-12.
Sandwiched between the two are the softball (April 26-28), golf (April 30-May 1) and track and field (May 3-5) championship events.
Then the people at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association can exhale.
Over the past decade, New Orleans Catholic schools have produced two double softball champions: Mount Carmel won the Class 5A trophy in 2009 and the Division I hardware in 2017; Archbishop Hannan won back-to-back Class 1A titles in 2011 and 2012.
The chances of both adding a third championship trophy to their collections are promising.
Mount Carmel, with a record of 18-5, is the No. 1 seed in Division I and should get past Byrd to set up a possible rematch with District 9-5A mate Dominican in the semifinal round on April 28. The winner of that game will then meet either John Curtis or Evangel for the division crown later that day.
Hannan’s path to Sulphur also looks promising. After opening against St. Michael at Coquille Park, the Lady Hawks (23-4) will likely have a rematch with De La Salle (17-12), a team they defeated, 6-2, on March 10.
I’m visualizing a Hannan vs. St. Charles Catholic tie-up in the semifinal round of the Division II tournament on April 28. The Lady Hawks also beat that team, 10-2, in LaPlace on March 31.
But don’t let the score fool you. St. Charles is no pushover, with years of tournament experience. But it has been eight years since the Comets played for a championship.
Carrying a 22-8 record into the Division II playoffs, St. Charles is coming off a split with De La Salle (22-7) for the District 10-3A title. Both had identical 7-1 league records because of that split.
Speaking of ‘split’
Having separate playoffs for select and non-select baseball teams has made it easier for Catholic schools to experience some success in the playoffs.
A case in point: The top seven seeds in Division II, by order of their current power rankings, are 1. John Curtis, 2. Catholic High, 3. St. Paul’s, 4. Jesuit, 5. Brother Martin, 6. Holy Cross and 7. Archbishop Rummel.
In a common playoff, Curtis would be the No. 7 seed should the playoffs begin today. Catholic would be ranked No. 9, followed by Jesuit, 19; Brother Martin, 22; Holy Cross, 24; and Rummel, 29.
The best overall team in the latest rankings is Zachary (26-2). Near the top are Sam Houston (25-4), Captain Shreve (25-2) and Northshore (24-1).
As the Division II playoff nears, De La Salle is the highest seed among local Catholic schools at No. 5. St. Charles Catholic is No. 8 and Hannan No. 10.
Good for them, because in a common playoff, De La Salle would fall a spot to No. 6, St. Charles would slide five spots to No. 13 and Hannan would drop seven positions to No. 17.
As it stands, this trio will have trouble making it out of Sulphur unscathed. Ranked ahead of De La Salle for berths in the Division II playoffs are University Lab (21-4), Parkview Baptist (20-3), St. Thomas More (19-7) and Teurlings Catholic (16-9).
De La Salle’s 22-7 record is more impressive than those of the two Lafayette Catholic schools ranked ahead of the Cavaliers, but the power points reflect that their schedule was more competitive than the Cavs’.
On the other hand, U-Lab and Parkview appear to pose a titanic challenge for the rest of the Division II bracket.
Although both are Baton Rouge schools, the two have not played each other this season. And both are on nine-game winning streaks dating back to March 22.
Local baseball trivia
While on the subject of baseball, here are some interesting events that happened this month. You older guys may remember these:
On April 1, 1939, New York Yankees legends Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig were stars in a 15-2 exhibition win over New Orleans at Pelican Stadium.
DiMaggio had a perfect day at the plate by driving in four runs on a single, triple and three doubles. He also reached base on a walk.
Gehrig had his best outing of the spring season, bringing the crowd to its feet with three singles and six RBI. He died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (a condition now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) two years later.
It was on April 8, 1986, that San Francisco Giants rookie Will Clark became the 11th player to homer on his first swing as a major leaguer.
The first baseman from New Orleans hammered a Nolan Ryan fastball into the Astrodome’s centerfield seats.
He also homered in his first game at Candlestick Park a week later.
On April 10, 2011, Delgado Community College gave coach Joe Scheuermann his 700th victory by pounding out a 13-0 win over LSU-Eunice at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium. In his 26 years, the son of legendary coach Lou “Rags” Scheuermann has not had a losing season as skipper of the Dolphins.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.