Catholic coach Richard LaBounty does not shy away from it.
Most coaches will say that rankings are just numbers that don’t mean anything.
Truthfully, LaBounty may also feel rankings don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t appreciate it.
The Crusaders (7-0) enter this week as the No. 3 team in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings, just behind San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic and Tampa Jesuit. And Catholic High wears that ranking as a badge of honor.
“We certainly talk about it,” LaBounty said. “We’re not scared to talk about it. We realize to continue to be as ranked as high as we are, we have to continue to win. Each and every game is a big game for us.
“We are shooting to be ranked No. 1 in the country, and we know in order to do that, we have to win every game. We would love for this program, at some time this year, be ranked No. 1 in the country.”
Catholic has been nationally-ranked before, but has never been ranked as high as they are right now during the regular season. The Crusaders finished the 2012 season ranked No. 3 in the MaxPreps ranking, and debuted at No. 7 this year.
“It’s really an honor, and it’s something special,” senior pitcher Avery Geyer said of the national ranking. “We’re trying our best to get up to No. 1 so we can at least say we were No. 1 at one point in our career.
“I check the rankings each week to see what’s going on out there, see which teams are doing what.”
The Crusaders will put their national ranking on the line tonight when they host New Hope of Columbus, Miss. New Hope went 25-9 last year and lost in the Class 5A state semifinals.
“I think it’s just a number, it’s a mythical thing,” LaBounty said of the ranking. “I don’t think we’re the best in the country. But we certainly have held serve each and every time we’ve taken the field, and because of our success last year, we certainly have been noticed nationally.
“It’s something that we hope and pray that we have success on the field that will allow us to end up being No. 1.”
District 1-6A gets first big showdown tonight
So far, the District 1-6A baseball season has had plenty of small battles.
Tonight in Pace, the first big showdown will take place when defending champion Pace plays host to 2012 runner-up Tate. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
When the two teams faced off in the preseason, the scoreboard lit up like a pinball machine, as Tate plated 10 runs in the first inning only to have Pace rally to take a 17-14 victory.
Pace brings a 7-3 overall record and 5-0 district record into tonight’s game. Tate is 5-2 overall and 4-1 in league play after its loss to PHS last Friday.
“I think it is the most critical (game) for us at this point, because of the bearing that it has on the number one seed position,” Pace coach Charlie Warner said. “We’re sitting at number one right now, but they can change that.
“It’s certainly a big game for us. We’ll play each other again, and we still have the other district teams. It’s still really early, but to this point, because of the records, it’s the biggest game we’ve played.”
Warner hopes to continue to see improvement in his Patriots squad, which returns only pitcher Thomas Huston and one position player from last season.
“I think that we’re further along swinging the bat than we thought we’d be,” Warner said. “There’s so many young guys in our lineup, and we didn’t know they’d react to real good pitching. We’ve faced some pretty good pitching and been able to score some runs.
“Defensively, we’re getting better. The struggle was to find guys in the middle, and we’re still dealing with that every day. It’s still a puzzle.”
Tate softball feeling good
The Tate Aggies have gotten off to a great start in the District 1-6A race with a 7-0 record.
Last weekend, though, the Aggies took a quick break from the rigors of league play to take part in the ultra-competitive Lady T-Wolves North Florida Classic hosted by Tallahassee Chiles.
The Aggies went 3-1 in the tournament, dropping a 3-2 loss to Wakulla in the opener, before bouncing back with wins over St. Petersburg Canterbury, Fort Walton Beach and Godby.
“We didn’t hit the ball very well the first two games, but I think it’s going to get us prepared for the next half of the season,” Tate coach Melinda Wyatt said.
The Aggies will play three critical District 1-6A games this week — Navarre and Escambia at home, followed by a road game at PHS.
Navarre currently trails Tate by one game in the loss column in the District 1-6A standings.
Crusaders get new scoreboard
LaBounty surprised his Crusaders on Thursday with the unveiling of a new scoreboard, which made its official debut in the Crusaders’ 11-0 win over Marianna on Friday.
The new scoreboard occupied the spot held by the old scoreboard, right alongside the new billboard celebrating Catholic’s state championship run last season.
“The school and the baseball program went in together and bought a nice scoreboard, and I think it’s added a lot to the atmosphere here at Catholic,” LaBounty said. “We put it up (Thursday). We didn’t tell the kids, we just said a big surprise was coming.
“It adds to the field, it ties everything together and makes the atmosphere even better here at Catholic High.”
The Crusaders wasted little time giving the new scoreboard a workout, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to the blowout win.