High school baseball teams relished the warm weather this past week after a unusually cold January pushed many teams indoors for long stretches.
With the baseball season starting Monday for some and later in the week for the rest, North DeSoto coach Bo Odom has used this week’s winter break to get a young team as much live action as possible.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen as far as cold weather day after day,” Odom said. “We had days where the highs were in the lower 30s and the windchill was in the 20s, and that made for some tough practices.
“We’re replacing eight of 10 starters and have just two seniors and four juniors on the entire team. These kids have talent and can play, they just haven’t played yet.”
The Griffins grabbed the No. 1 seed in Class 3A this past season, advancing to the semifinals after winning the state title two seasons ago.
Now they and Loyola (No. 15 seed in Class 3A), move into a District 1-4A that includes Benton (quarterfinals), Minden (second round) and Northwood (first round). Northwood infielder Dustin Brown, Benton pitcher Aaron Henigan and Benton utility Jordan Shaffer were The Times All-City Baseball picks that return in that district.
Some local powers won’t have many new faces at all, as is the case for the reigning Class 2A champions Evangel.
First baseman Chance Defriend said the Eagles are more ready than ever as they step in the Class 3A competition this season.
“We’re pretty much the same team, missing just one or two guys,” Defriend said. “We want to be the first (baseball) team at Evangel to win back to back titles.
“We started off pretty terrible last year at 12-12, but at some point during the season, we regained the godly attributes that our school is built on. We were all new starters, and we relaxed and were having fun.”
Bossier, the No. 24 seed, is the only remaining District 1-3A team that made a playoff appearance this past season. North Webster makes the move to 3A after a semifinals finish, and they return an all-area selection in pitcher Dylan Modisette. That leaves Calvary as the premier power in District 2-1A, even though the Cavaliers are very young with losses like Ryan Leone, Garrett Williams (hit a two-run home run at Oklahoma State in his first collegiate at-bat) and Weston Steelhammer.
Lakeside and Lakeview made the first round of the playoffs this past season. Captain Shreve is a mix of old and new with all-city selections Bryant Bowen and infielder Justin Skeesick returning from a Gators team that exited in the first round.
“We’re returning four guys that made the first- or second-team all district, but we’ve lost four guys, too,” said Shreve coach Todd Sharp. “We’ve done a lot of the mental work since, like most high schools, we have a baseball class during school.
“But we’ll have to adjust to facing live pitching, especially offspeed pitches. Timing is always an issue.”
The Gators are one of the few teams to start their season Monday and will host Pineville.
Byrd coach Greg Williams will make his head coaching debut after a successful assistant coaching stint at Zachary, which won Class 5A in 2009, advanced to the 2011 semfinals and the 2013 championship game. The Yellow Jackets advanced to the playoffs in Al Cantwell’s final season before Cantwell took the LSUS position.
Haughton won a road playoff game to get to the second round this past season.
In District 2-5A, Ruston returns All-Area Pitcher of the Year David Michael Burkhalter and infielder Cannon Brasuell from a second-round appearance.
Staying in Lincoln Parish, all-area selection Mark Van hopes to improve of Cedar Creek’s quarters run in Class 1A. St. Mary’s, Haynesville and Logansport were other Class 1A playoffs teams this past season.
In Classes B and C, Zwolle hopes it can rebound from an early second-round exit, and returning outfielder Tristan Collins is a good start.
Converse made the Class B quarters, Stanley advanced to the second round while Florien, Doyline and Castor made the playoffs.
Ebarb was the area’s only Class C playoff representative, advancing to the second round.