Four games into the 2013 high school baseball season, the Airline Vikings faced a familiar spot.
The Vikings finished a 1-3 showing against some of the state’s top competition in the Dutchtown tournament, walking away from the greater Baton Rouge area with the same record from last season.
“You could see it in their eyes. It was a different 1-3,” Vikings coach Toby Todd said. “We didn’t just go down there and get our backsides beat in. We went down and competed, minus an error here or an error there. Even the Dutchtown game — a 5-0 game — was 0-0 in the fifth.”
The Vikings dropped their first game the next week at the Trey Altick Prep Classic in Monroe but have not lost since, winning seven straight games, including a 4-0 mark in their Jason Bland Memorial Tournament this weekend at Airline.
A season ago, the Vikings never shook off their slow start and finished 11-22. The Vikings have a chance to equal or surpass their win total from last season this weekend when they play in the Sulphur tournament against Alexandria, Benton, Sulphur and Sam Houston.
“We got a lot of young kids some playing time, some at-bats, some innings, with the hope it would pay dividends,” Todd said. “So far, we’re pitching better, playing defense a little better, hitting a little better. So far, we’re not great. We’re not good, but we’re getting better every time we play.”
Senior right-hander Landon Lewis has given the Vikings an anchor in the starting rotation, going 3-0 in the season’s first three weeks.
Offensively, the Vikings have shown balance. Against Ruston on Saturday night, the lower third of the Vikings’ order produced the game-winning run after Chase Rivers’ game-tying two-run home run.
“Last year, we’d find a way to not get it done,” Todd said. “The good thing is it’s not been the same guy every time. Sometimes it’s the top of the order. This time, it was five, six, seven, eight, and our nine-hole was up at the plate, hit a smash to shortstop. They couldn’t handle it, and we won.”
The Gators will add another color to their traditional green, yellow and white attire on March 21.
When Captain Shreve hosts Southwood that night, it will a “Pink Out” game, which will benefit the Northwest Louisiana chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“We’ve done one, but it’s been a few years,” Gators coach Todd Sharp said. “Lindsay Dean is the executive director (of the NWLA Komen Foundation). She approached us, and we were glad to help. We’ve got pink wristbands, pink socks, pink bats they’re going to sell. We’ll also have pink T-shirts that were made up also. All the proceeds go to the Komen Foundation.”
The game will have special meaning to Sharp.
“My mother-in-law passed away Jan. 1, 2001,” Sharp said. “She had breast cancer. Then it was in remission, and it came back aggressively. I was married Jan. 27, 2001. She was not able to make the wedding, so (Komen) is something I’ve always tried to be a part of. It’s a way our team can be a part of it.”
Bearcats third baseman Cannon Brasuell had a memorable night Friday against Haughton.
Brasuell, a junior who has drawn recruiting interest from Northwestern Stae, homered twice and drove in seven runs in the Bearcats’ win.
“He’s been by far the most consistent guy we’ve got,” Ruston coach Toby White said. “That’s not a total shock. He was the first freshman that I ever had make the varsity, much less start. He started as a DH as a freshman.”
With the departure of pitcher/third baseman Clayton Cline, an opportunity to play third base consistently opened for Brasuell, who embraced the challenge.
“He’s always been able to hit,” White said. “He has made huge, huge strides defensively. He’s worked on it. He’s really improved himself defensively. He knew, coming in, he had to. That tells you what kind of kid he is. It was something he needed to work on, and he committed to it, and he’s gotten a lot better.”