U-High facing defending champion

Familiar opponent Mangham awaits St. John in 1A

University High’s baseball team has assembled a glittering résumé with a District 7-2A championship and a school record for number of wins.

In order to truly leave a legacy as the school’s most accomplished team, however, the Cubs must go where no other team in school history has gone before and that’s to win a Class 2A state championship.

That quest continues when No. 4 University (28-6) meets No. 1 and defending state champion Calvary Baptist (28-5) in a semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday at ULM’s Warhawk Field.

“You aspire to get to the tournament, to have a chance to play for a state championship and it’s so hard these days with so much parity,” U-High coach Burke Broussard said. “From top to bottom, 2A is as tough as there is. We’re fortunate and excited to be in this position.”

Sixth-seeded St. John- Plaquemine (28-6) finds itself in a similar situation, returning to the state tournament for the first time in a decade in search of its first state title, facing second-seeded Mangham (26-8) in a Class 1A semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday at Warhawk Field.

“I think anything less than the position we’re in would have been a disappointment in my eyes,” St. John coach Heath Whittington said. “I really had faith in this team. I think we expected to be where we are.”

UHIGH-CALVARY: U-High’s back in the state tournament for the first time since consecutive appearances in 2008-09. The Cubs made one trip to the title game in Broussard’s second season, falling to Newman in 2000.

U-High is riding a span in which they’ve won 11 of 12 games and 14 of their past 16.

Sophomore ace Manny Miles (10-0, 0.42 ERA) will start for the Cubs and opposes projected high-round major league draft choice Garrett Williams, a 6-foot-2 senior left-hander with a fastball clocked in the low 90s. Williams brings in a 6-3 record, 1.56 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 54 innings. The Cavaliers also boast right-hander Stephen Morrison (10-1, 0.81 ERA).

Senior center fielder Gino Marucci is one U-High’s offensive catalysts with a team-high .537 batting average, 13 doubles and 41 RBIs, along with senior right fielder Steven Sensley (.440, 7 HRs, 38 RBIs).

“I knew we’d be good but I didn’t know we would be this good,” Broussard said. “We’ve been really rounded all year, and it’s been consistent and what we’ve hung our hat on.”

ST. JOHN-MANGHAM: St. John last reached the state championship game in 2003, when the Eagles lost 7-6 to Country Day.

St. John will have to solve a familiar opponent in order to make it to the 4 p.m. Saturday final, having split a pair of games this season with Mangham. The Eagles lost 6-4 in their season opener Feb. 22 and answered with a 9-4 win on March 7 in a SJHS’s tourney.

“I think we’re extremely well matched,” Whittington said. “What they do is similar to what we do. I don’t think either one of us is going to be able to surprise the other one. It’s going to be a good game.”

St. John has reeled off 10 wins in its past 11 games, including a tenuous stretch of a pair of one-run playoff wins and a come-from-behind 4-1 effort against Westminster Christian last week.

Shortstop Trevor Curry, a Southeastern Louisiana signee, leads the Eagles with a .528 average, 10 homers and 53 RBIs.

Whittington said he will choose between Seth Gulotta (5-1, 2.10 ERA), Hunter Schnebelen (8-1, 1.59), Brandon Noel (8-1, 2.70) or Rene Ledet (4-2, 2.60) to start on the mound.

“I think both programs expected to be there,” Whittington said. “It’s an exciting time of the year, and I don’t think they’re going to be happy just to be there and I don’t think we are either. It’s going to be a game to watch.”