LECOMPTE — There is a different feeling in the air with the Rapides baseball team.
Former Grant assistant and LSUA pitcher Colton Knuckols is the Mustangs new coach, taking over for Chris Bandy, who is now is an assistant at Oak Hill.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Knuckols said. “A lot of prayer was put in to where I wanted to go. I had a great opportunity last year at Grant, coached for two years at East Texas and played my collegiate career at LSUA. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to coach these guys.”
With Knuckols’ assistance, the Cougars went 19-2-1 and went to the LHSAA Class 4A second round after finishing second to state semifinalist Tioga in District 3-4A.
Rapides is hoping that the coach can do a similar feat at the school. Last year, the Mustangs finished 7-12 and missed the LHSAA playoffs for the second consecutive year.
However, leaders like junior first baseman Zachary Laborde and senior utility player Jacob Henderson have already noticed the change.
“He instills a lot of discipline,” Laborde said. “He doesn’t put up with playing around; everything is business. Off the field, we can play around, but once we get on the field, the mentality changes.”
Rapides last made the playoffs in Henderson’s freshman year, when it upset Weston as a No. 26 seed in the 2013 Class B playoffs before bowing out to Converse.
“This year, (our goal) is to get to the playoffs and see what we can do with a new coach,” Henderson said.
The school has also stuck behind Knuckols as he dealt with his son, Maddox, being born three months premature.
“For the past few years as coach, you get a lot of practice being sort of a father figure, but it’s all different when it’s yours,” Knuckols said. “We’ve really been blessed, my wife and I, that the Lord is taking care of him. I’m just hoping that my experience in coaching and being around good character men, that I can be the example that I need to be for him.”
Maddox returned home to his parents a week ago, but what has stood out to Knuckols has been the support.
“I can’t say enough good things about Rapides High School as far as support,” Knuckols said. “The way that they’ve treated me throughout this process makes me want to stay here forever.”
His players also feel the same way.
“We’re just excited that we have a new coach,” Laborde said. “It seems like it’s going to be good this year so I can’t wait.”