A longtime mainstay on the local sports scene has made a comeback.
American Legion baseball has returned to the Westbank this summer after a 10-year absence.
The Spillway Sportsman team, sponsored by Post No. 160, marks the return of Legion baseball to the area after an absence of more than a decade.
The team – organized in May – consists of high school players from Brusly, Plaquemine, St. John, Livonia and Catholic-Pointe Coupee.
The ballclub will play its home games at Charles K. Marionneaux Field in Brusly, which hosted the program in its heyday.
American Legion baseball was a staple on the Westbank as far back as the 1940s. The program flourished for decades.
The program declined in the 1990s with the expansion of other summer baseball leagues, a lack of participation and limited funds to support the program.
Players from the Brusly Panthers include recent graduates Evan Daigle, Blake Manola and Landon Andre, as well as sophomore-to-be Connor Manola.
The roster also includes Brennan Maggio of CHSPC, Chris Patin of St. John, Austin LeJeune of Plaquemine. Livonia standouts include first-team 3A All-State shortstop Ty Gurr, along with Jacob Gabor and Jarrod Jarreau.
“These guys came together in May when we decided to get this program up and running again,” Lemoine said. “If everything goes right, these guys five years down the line will be known as the ones who helped get this program going again.”
Lemoine had played in the programs during his high school years – two years on a team in New Roads and one on the Westside team in Brusly.
“They’ve been trying to get it back for years,” Lemoine said. “It was popular for years, but travel ball and other programs took away from it.
“They’re trying to get it back now because it’s low-cost and local, and all the local kids can play on one team close to home,” he said.
The program will need time to rebuild to the status it enjoyed at its peak, which lasted into the mid 1990s.
“We’re on the ground floor right now,” Lemoine said. “It will take at least four years to get it back where it once was.”
The Legion program does more than bring together players from area schools under one banner.
The players got a baptism by fire Monday when they fell on 10-run rules to Ascension Parish powerhouse Gauthier & Amadee, a perennial state title contender who has found its way to the Legion World Series several times in its long history.
Gauthier & Amadee consists of teams from four longtime strongholds in high school baseball – East Ascension, St. Amant, Dutchtown and Ascension Catholic.
Other teams in Spillway Sportsman’s league include Ponchatoula, Mandeville, Slidell-based Salmen and Archbishop Hannan.
Spillway Sportsman opened its season June 3 in a 7-2 win over Ponchatoula. Jarreau took the win at the mound, while all four Brusly players had hits in the victory.
In Game 1 of Monday’s double-header against Gauthier & Amadee, the game went scoreless into the fourth inning, but the locals walked four in a row.
The Sportsmen allowed four runs the next inning, held back G&A for two outs in the next frame, but allowed two runs. The locals led G&A to two outs the next frame, but gave up seven runs to the Ascension ballclub.
In Game 2, walks once again plagued the locals, who allowed G&A openings in two innings en route to an 11-1 win over the Sportsmen.
LeJeune scored the lone run in Game 1, while Patin notched the run in Game 2.
“We only started our season in May, so we’re still coming together as a team,” Lemoine said. “The players with Gauthier & Amadee have played together for years, so they all know each other pretty well.”
The Sportsmen travel Monday to Ponchatoula and host Hannan Tuesday.