Two years ago, members of District 1-4A played three-game district series.
Tonight’s Minden-Benton matchup is the third of the season between the 1-4A rivals, but this one holds a little more importance than a regular-season meeting.
At 6 p.m., the Tigers and Crimson Tide meet at Benton’s Tiger Stadium for the third time this season. At stake is a berth in the state quarterfinals.
“It’s a little more important this go around,” Minden coach Dean Francis said. “Like I told my kids, (Benton) won the district championship, but if we can muster a win, it’s a little more important.”
Benton won both meetings — 5-2 at Minden and 2-1 at Benton — and both teams advanced to the second round with extra-inning wins in the first round. Benton outlasted Salmen, 1-0 in nine innings, while Minden edged St. Augustine, 2-1, in eight innings.
“We like the familiarity of it,” Benton coach J.D. Stephens said. “We don’t have to call around and get charts. We don’t have the unknowns. They’re a competitive opponent. We know we have to play our best to beat them.”
Captain Shreve, the District 1-5A champion, opens its postseason against another familiar face, 14th-seeded Denham Springs.
The teams matched up the second weekend of the year, and the Yellow Jackets scored a 6-5 victory.
“We feel confident,” Gators coach Todd Sharp said. “It was a one-run game early in the season for both of us. We’ve both gotten a lot better. Our players are upbeat, excited and ready to play.”
The Gators are joined in Class 5A road openers by Haughton, which plays at No. 8 seed St. Paul’s.
Much like Minden, Benton and Captain Shreve, the area’s two Class 2A entrants are familiar with their second-round opponents, although they did not face off this season.
Both Evangel and Calvary play teams they met in last year’s playoffs.
Evangel, seeded third, hosts Riverside at 4 p.m. at Durwood Rust Field. The Eagles and Rebels have met in the last two postseasons, splitting the games.
Evangel emerged victorious in a 2011 state quarterfinal, while Riverside knocked the defending state champion Eagles from the 2012 playoffs in the semifinal round.
“For us, it’s just getting ready for the next game in the playoff format,” Evangel coach Tim Hulett said. “We don’t try to create something that makes the game bigger than life. Then guys don’t perform well.”
Evangel had to replace much of its starting lineup from last season’s semifinal loss to the Rebels. With three District 1-2A teams remaining in the playoffs — North Webster plays at Catholic-New Iberia on Wednesday — the district schedule helped prepare Hulett’s squad more than he could have imagined.
Those three remaining teams each went 1-1 against one another in 1-2A play, causing a tri-championship.
“It’s good that we’ve played those kind of games already, more so this year than any other year, because of our experience factor, our experience level,” Hulett said. “They really were playoff atmospheres.”
Defending Class 2A champion Calvary has to hit the road to face St. Thomas Aquinas, the No. 17 seed. The Cavaliers will play tonight at 6 at Southeastern Louisiana University’s Alumni Field.
A season ago, Calvary shut out STA, 3-0, in the second round.
“Nothing that happened last year matters in terms of what we’re trying to do this year,” Calvary coach Todd Walker said. “The St. Thomas team probably has some similar players. In the end, we just feel like if we do our job as well as we can do it, we’ll be fine.”
Calvary plans on starting left-hander Garrett Williams, as the Cavaliers were able to avoid using him in a 20-0 first-round win against Lakeview.
“It was good we didn’t have to use him on the mound,” Walker said. “He’s as rested as much as you could possibly rest a high school kid.”