Two local Class 5A baseball teams will hit the road Tuesday for first-round playoff games while one area squad will host a contest as the 5A playoff brackets were announced Sunday.
Byrd (21-13), the No. 22 team, heads to No. 11 Destrehan (22-10) in the first round on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
No. 29 Airline (18-16) heads to No. 4 Denham Springs (25-9) at 6 p.m. at North Park.
No. 8 Ruston (22-11) is the highest ranked area team, and the Bearcats will host No. 25 Walker (18-15).
The Yellow Jackets surged into the playoff picture in the past month by winning 14 of their last 18 games en route to a being District 1-5A co-champions.
First-year coach Greg Williams said Byrd’s recent climb in the rankings help their first-round chances, but in Class 5A baseball, everybody is capable.
“Every team in the playoffs has a chance, and there are teams who didn’t make it that are good,” Williams said. “Destrehan is one of the hottest teams out there, and they have a lot of confidence.
“They play a good brand of baseball.”
Destrehan has won their last 13 games — all in District 7-5A, which also boasts No. 14 Hahnville.
Destrehan pitcher Kade Granier, a Southeastern Louisiana signee, is the likely starter against the Yellow Jackets.
Coach Marty Luquet is also retiring at the end of the season after 14 years at the helm, and the Wildcats want to win Luquet’s first championship at Destrehan after reaching the championship game twice in Luquet’s tenure.
“If (Granier) is on, they are on,” Williams said. “We have to play good defense and match him on the mound.
“We have to prevent them getting momentum through their offense by doing things like preventing the leadoff man from getting on.”
Airline begins a new playoff streak after having one snapped in 2012 by missing the postseason.
Coach Toby Todd said the Vikings went to the playoffs every season from 1987 to 2011, and now Airline is has made it in consecutive seasons.
“We talked about every day being a one-day playoff and playing for our playoff lives to be here,” Todd said. “We want to continue to uphold that playoff tradition.
“Denham Springs is a very good team that has speed and is aggressive like Byrd is.”
The Vikings made their playoff push by winning nine of their last 13 games as a mostly young team settled into their roles.
They face a Denham Springs squad that took the District 4-5A title and won 10 of their 12 games.
“They’ve got a couple of better-than-average pitchers, and they like to hit and run,” Todd said. “We’ve got to play good defense so we can take th pressure off.
“If we don’t, it will be a short night.”
Todd said he will start either Kyle Backofen or Andrew Maxey, who went 4-0 in district play.
Ruston faces a fellow District 4-5A team in Walker, who has lost their last three games.
The Bearcats won District 2-5A over No. 6 Alexandria as Ruston has won 15 of its last 17 contests.
The area nearly had a fourth squad – No. 32 Natchitoches Central (13-15). But No. 33 Grace King (21-9) won District 8-5A and received an automatic playoff bid, which bumped the Chiefs from the postseason.
The Class 5A playoffs will feature a new structure as well.
Teams will play one first-round game before a best-of-three series in the second round and quarterfinals. The semifinals and championship will just be one game.
“This is like the pilot program to see if it works,” Todd said. “The (structure) will make it less likely that a team with just one really good pitcher will advance.
Williams added that teams with deeper pitching staffs should have an advantage if they can advance out of the first round.