St. John trying to keep playoff momentum

Scrappy St. John of Plaquemine pulled off a comeback victory in the quarterfinals and hopes to continue its solid play in the Class 1A Baseball Tournament Friday and Saturday at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Sixth-seeded St. John (28-6) battles second-seeded Mangham (26-8) at 4 p.m. Friday and defending champion Ouachita Christian (30-5), the top seed, faces fifth-seeded Central Catholic at 7 p.m. in semifinal games at Warhawk Field.

St. John last played in the state tournament in 2003 with Tait Dupont as coach and the Eagles finished as runner-up. Dupont’s Brusly team will play in the Class 3A tournament in Sulphur.

“We have a good group of kids who work hard and don’t give up,” St. John coach Heath Whittington said.

“Our pitching has been real good this year, and we have good team chemistry.”

Whittington said St. John has never won a state title in any boys sport. “This is my sixth year here, and this is our best team,” Whittington said. “We won 24 games two years ago and 25 last year.

“We played some Class 5A teams this year to get us ready. I’ve enjoyed coaching these kids.”

St. John’s first two playoff wins were by one run each, and its third victory came on a two-out rally in the seventh inning. Senior second baseman-pitcher Morgan Booksh was behind 0-and-2 in the count and doubled to start a three-run outburst and a 4-1 quarterfinal comeback victory over Westminster Christian on Saturday.

Leadoff hitter Booksh (.390, 36 RBIs) is one of four Eagles seniors. As a pitcher, Booksh is 2-1 with a 1.01 ERA and seven saves. His two wins have come in the playoffs.

Other St. John seniors are left fielder Colby Landry (.308, 13 stolen bases, team-leading 40 runs scored), pitcher-first baseman Seth Gulotta (5-1, 2.10 ERA, .370, 31 RBIs) and shortstop Trevor Curry (.528). Curry, a Southeastern Louisiana baseball signee, leads the team with 10 homers and 53 RBIs.

Whittington said Gulotta will likely take the mound Friday. He also can call on three quality left-handed pitchers in Hunter Schnebelen (8-1, 1.59 ERA, 53 strikeouts), Brandon Noel (8-1, 2.70 ERA) or Rene Ledet (4-2, 2.60 ERA).

“We play solid defense and have turned 17 double plays,” Whittington said. “Trevor Curry at shortstop, Morgan Booksh at second and junior Chris Patin at third base have played well and keep us sound in the middle.

“I love the character of this team. We’re scrappy and hang around. We have a good team batting average (.365). We have a lot of speed in the outfield and on the bases.”

St. John and Mangham split two games in the regular season. Mangham has beaten its three playoff foes by a 26-1 margin.

“It should be an evenly matched game,” Whittington said. “Both teams play good defense and have good pitching.

“We’re focusing on one game at a time.”