One local high school baseball team already has punched its ticket to one of three state tournament sites later this week.
After Monday, the Calvary Cavaliers could be joined by as many as five other teams, as Classes 4A-C wrap up the quarterfinal round, and Class 5A concludes its second round.
One thing is certain — District 1-2A will provide half the field at ULM’s Warhawk Stadium. North Webster hosts Evangel on Monday night at 6 in Springhill in a game that will send one of 1-2A’s tri-champions to the state semifinals.
Evangel and North Webster split their two meetings this year. In each game, the visiting team emerged victorious.
“It’s big anytime you can go into a district opponent’s field and beat them,” Evangel coach Tim Hulett said. “The atmosphere was good then. Now it will be even more of a playoff atmosphere.”
Despite a roster that is less experienced than in years past, Evangel brings a winning pedigree into Springhill, while the host Knights are a group on the rise.
The consolidation of Springhill, Sarepta, Cotton Valley and Shongaloo high schools gave coach Chris Brooks’ team something it lacked in Brooks’ six years as coach.
“Our pitching depth is way better than it was two or three years ago,” he said. “We’ve got several options there. You have younger guys that you can develop more, and you don’t have to throw them in the fire as early. Every tournament we played, we played the four-game max, and we pretty much had the pitching to go all four games, which we wouldn’t have had two or three years ago.”
While Evangel and North Webster are familiar opponents, Haughton’s first shot at a Class 5A state tournament berth goes through a coach who stopped the Bucs short of a trip to the Class 4A semifinals two seasons ago.
Ross Blankenship brings his West Monroe Rebels to Haughton at 6 tonight, two years after he led St. Louis to a quarterfinal victory at Haughton.
“Ross does an excellent job wherever he is,” said Haughton coach Glenn Maynor, whose Bucs are one of two area 5A teams (Ruston) with a chance to earn their way to New Orleans tonight.
Maynor’s Bucs didn’t play the Rebels this season, but the scouting report Haughton built mentions one thing in particular.
“They’ve got speed to burn,” Maynor said. “Offensively, they may be the best team left in the bracket. Their M.O. is to run and score a lot of runs.”
The Bucs expect a full house tonight, as Little League games have been canceled and extra bleachers have been brought out to Haughton’s field.
Similarly, North DeSoto should have a good crowd, as the defending Class 3A champions aim for a second straight state tournament berth when they host Eunice at 6.
Bo Odom’s club has made sure its fans stay to the end, grinding out a healthy number of close victories, including a 3-2, walk-off win against Caldwell Parish in Wednesday’s second round.
“The guys believe in themselves and what we’re trying to do,” Odom said. “The philosophy is they have to get us out 21 times and have the lead to win. We’ve been fortunate to not let that happen too much.”
Odom said tonight’s opponent is a mirror image of his scrappy club.
“They do the little things,” Odom said. “They put the ball in play. They play good defense, pitch well and get the timely hit. They’re a lot like us, honestly.”
Benton is the lone area team playing on the road, as Class 4A’s No. 5 seed is at No. 4 seed Teurlings Catholic at 4:30 p.m.
The Tigers haven’t left home yet in the postseason, but Benton has experience playing away from the area, having gone 1-3 in a March tournament at Sulphur.
“It was an opportunity to check where we were at,” Benton coach J.D. Stephens said. “We had some great games against Sulphur in the Airline tournament, and we ended up sweeping Byrd and Shreve. We got ahead of ourselves. That tournament leveled us back out.
“Experience is something you can’t teach. It’s not something that’s given to you on Day 1. Go back to the Salmen game (in the first round of the playoffs), we started six sophomores in that game. A lot of guys haven’t been in that situation. As this progresses, we’ll get more comfortable in that atmosphere.”