Jays, Bearcats to Tangle in Opening Round of State Playoffs
Jesuit, Seeded #8, Hosts Ruston, Seeded #25, at John Ryan Stadium with 1st Pitch, Barring Wild Weather, at 5 PM
The District 9-5A champion Blue Jays are as ready as can be for the state playoffs. Jesuit hosts the Ruston Bearcats today (Tuesday, April 28) at John Ryan Stadium with first pitch, provided the weather holds up, set at 5 p.m.
The game is being streamed live by Ruston radio station ESPN 97.7FM KNBB. For the playoffs, admission is $6 each for adults, students, and children (ages 6-11). Student IDs and season passes are not accepted at the gate for LHSAA playoff contests.
The eighth-seeded Blue Jays bring a 24-7 record (8-2 in district play) to the playoffs versus the 25th-seeded Bearcats (17-7). Jesuit’s regular season ended last Thursday (April 23) with a resounding 9-3 win over Brother Martin, marking seven consecutive wins for the Jays. In the seven games played since the Jays last loss (against Holy Cross, 8-6), Coach Joey Latino’s charges have rung up a total of 43 runs versus 10 for the opposition.
In facing the Bearcats, the Jays are somewhat familiar with this northeast Louisiana prep team. Jesuit shut out Ruston, 5-0, earlier this season in the WGNO-ABC 26 Tournament. The Bearcats had a pretty much miserable tournament, losing three out of four games. It was early in the season and the Bearcats were fighting snow and inclement weather that hindered team practices. Eventually, the Bearcats settled down after their disorienting start and the Jays will be facing a whole new animal at the Ryan.
“I reminded them of that at Monday’s practice, that a loss in the first round ends the season,” said Coach Joey Latino, adding Ruston’s a solid team. “They’re very well coached, they’re fundamentally sound, and they play hard. Their head coach, Toby White, is a great guy. I got to know him pretty well over the last few years because they play in the WGNO tournament. When I look at him and how his teams have played, I see a consistent approach to things. They’re obviously teaching the game right and they’re playing it fundamentally well. You’re going to have your hands full when you play them. There are no do-overs.”
Coach Latino plans to start Myles Blunt (5-1) on the mound. With an intimidating presence and a powerful right arm, Blunt has come into his own in his senior year, the third season he’s been with the varsity. His last outing was Jesuit’s 7-1 win over John Ehret. In that game, Blunt went four and one-third innings, yielding only three hits and the lone run scored in the top of the first. He had four strike outs against the Patriots.
“I told Myles that his teammates have a lot of faith and trust in him so does the coaching staff,” said Coach Latino. “I told him to just go out there and give us your best as long as you can give it to us and let the rest take care of itself. Myles has come a long way. He’s in a good frame of mine, he’s ready to go.”
The Jays are bringing heavy bats to the playoffs, having accumulated a total of 44 hits in their last five games.
“It’s hard to get everybody hot at the same time,” said Coach Latino. “We’re hitting the ball consistently, we’re hitting it well. Even our outs have been hit hard at times, which is a good sign, even when you’re not getting hits. We’ve had guys go 0 for 3 but all three balls have been hit right on the screws. It’s just unfortunate they didn’t find a hole. Over the last few weeks – throw out the anemic 2-0 win over St. Aug – we’ve been very consistent at the plate.”
Look for Jake Licciardi to be in the lineup as the designated hitter. Against Brother Martin, Licciardi belted a solo home run that, at the time, tied the game 3-3.
According to Coach Latino, the LHSAA seeding process is only important in determining if the team stays home or must travel. The top four seeds have home field advantage until the state tournament in Sulphur the weekend of May 15-16. Jesuit’s eighth seed status means IF the Jays get past Ruston, they stay at John Ryan Stadium for the second round, which is a best of three series to be played May 1 and 2 against either ninth-seeded West Monroe or Chalmette, seeded 24th.
“The whole seeding thing is for the purpose of putting the bracket together,” said Coach Latino. “The numbers to me mean nothing. In 2012, we were seeded fourth and Northshore was 29; we win 1-0. In 2013, we’re seeded fifth, Acadiana was 28, and we win 1-0. These seeding numbers to me are the most meaningless things out there because every team out there has a capable pitcher. Every team in the playoffs is obviously good and you just have to be playing your best baseball. I don’t care what the numbers are.”
Despite the horrible weather that rolled through the metro area on Monday, the Jays had a good practice and are focused, said Coach Latino. The field at John Ryan is in great shape, too.
“All the seniors on this year’s team, except pitchers David Boh and Blake Eichhhorn, were on last year’s team,” said Coach Latino. “These boys remember that experience against Live Oak in Sulphur, they know just how tough it is to win, how tough it is to advance. Hopefully they can share that with the younger guys. You have to win seven games to win it all, and that’s not easy to do.”
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