A group of Brusly High School seniors will toss up baseball caps instead of graduation caps Friday.
The Panther baseball team’s 3A semifinal clash with Evangel Christian in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association 3A Baseball Championship Tournament coincides with graduation ceremonies at BHS.
Opening pitch is set for 6 p.m. at McMurray Park.
“The kids want this one bad enough to miss the ceremony,” Coach Tait Dupont said. “The kids are excited, their parents are excited and they want to end their high school careers with a state championship.”
It marks the first-ever between the two teams, but the showings by two Panther foes against Evangel this season gave head coach Tait Dupont an idea of what to expect.
“I know they’re good,” he said. “Parkview played them during the season and we split with Parkview in district, and Livonia played them really tough in the playoffs and we beat them as well.
“We think we’re right there with (Evangel),” he said. “If we go and play our game and do it with good defense and pitching, we can beat Evangel, just as we did with West Feliciana.”
The trip marks the first time in school history that the baseball team reached the state tournament two consecutive years.
“Last year, the kids were just happy to be there, but this year they’re motivated and know that the one game against Evangel won’t win it all,” Dupont said. “We know we’ll have to do same thing all over again in the championship game. It’s one day at a time, the way we’ve taken it all year.”
A win over Evangel would put the Panthers in the 3A championship game against the winner of John Curtis vs. University, another Panther district rival.
John Curtis toppled Parkview – another of Brusly’s 7-3A rivals – 6-3 on Monday. University nipped Albany 5-3 Monday at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Brusly last reached the state championship game in 2010 under then-head coach Trevor Dupont -- younger brother of the current Panther mentor --when the Panthers fell 10-2 to Notre Dame-Crowley in Ruston at Louisiana Tech’s J.C. Love Field.
A 3-1 win Monday over West Feliciana opened the gate for Brusly’s second consecutive in so many years in the championship tourney.
The seniors waited at least 12 years to receive their diplomas, but the upperclassmen consider the tournament an opportunity to wrap up unfinished business from last year.
Brusly’s quest for the 3A title last season fizzled in a 4-0 loss to eventual state runner-up E.D. White, a District 7-3A rival prior to last year’s reclassifications.
It’s a different story for the 2014 Panthers, who come to grips with Evangel Christian for the first time in the history of BHS baseball.
The Panthers notched the semifinal berth Monday in a 3-1 win over district rival West Feliciana.
“Pitching and defense won this game, as it normally does in a baseball game,” Dupont said. “We had a great pitching performance, had some great defense and did all the little things needed at bat to pull off the win.”
Winning pitcher Luke LeBlanc made a stunning showing at the mound. He tallied six strikeouts, allowed no unearned runs on three hits and walked only three over seven innings.
LeBlanc held the Saints hitless through four innings.
Senior Blake Manola (2-3) had a two-run triple and a single to power Brusly. He also scored two of the three Panther runs.
Manola’s triple to center field scored fellow upperclassman Kwanston Adkins, who reached base on a single in the top of the fifth for a 1-0 lead.
West Feliciana ended the inning on a double play that squashed two potential Panthers runs.
Manola stretched the lead by a run later in the inning.
He tacked on the final Panther run in the top of the seven off an error by the catcher.
The Saints scored their lone run in the bottom of the fifth.
The Panthers chalked the win after they split the District 7-3A series with WFHS last month.
Win 4-3 bi-district win over Erath last week sent Brusly to the regional round.
Landon Andre (2-2) propelled Brusly with a single in the second and triple in the fourth. He mounted one RBI.
An Austin Watts double scored two runs in the fourth.
Luke LeBlanc sent home Evan Daigle in the bottom of the sixth.
Brusly bagged the win despite allowing Erath 12 hits, but Erath left eight on base.
The Panthers pulled from a 1-0 deficit with two runs apiece in the fourth and the sixth.
BHS pulled off the victory despite Erath’s two-run rally off two doubles in the top of the seventh.