GONZALES — A break in tradition happened a year ago when Gauthier & Amedee Post 81 failed to advance to the American Legion State Baseball Tournament.
That fact gives the Ascension Parish-based Gauthier & Amedee (37-2-2) squad something to prove when the state tourney begins Saturday in Sulphur.
Gauthier & Amedee won Legion state championships in 2010 and 2011 under coach Justin Morgan and also was the runner-up in 2009.
“Last year was a big disappointment for us,” Morgan said. “We knew we had some new faces last year and some key injuries that were key factors. We returned 10 guys from last year, and that group with the eight we added, things have really taken off. Not making the state tournament last year is definitely motivation for us.”
Morgan’s team kicked off its title quest in a big way by winning the Southeast Regional Tournament — the 2012 stumbling block — last week. Sulphur’s McMurry Park is the site of the tourney that Gauthier & Amedee is focused on, said former East Ascension player Austin Millet, a pitcher-infielder. G&A plays the John Curtis-based River Ridge Patriots at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re going there to win a state championship,” Millet said. “We definitely have the talent to do it. We play small ball well, and we’ve got the pitching. None of our pitchers gets in a bind ... We go deep and we close.”
Gauthier & Amedee’s roster includes 10 players from a year ago. The good news for Morgan is that 10 players on the current squad are set to return next year.
G&A Post 81 is built on a deep pitching staff and solid defense, according to Morgan. The added element of team-wide speed is what separates G&A Post 81 from many other summer teams. Morgan is quick to remind his team that its previous 37 wins offer no guarantees this weekend.
“We’ve got to stay consistent,” said Morgan, a Dutchtown High assistant coach. “We’ve got to be productive offensively, play good defense and stay with our game plan. Now is not the time to change what we do.”
The list of teams standing between the Ascension contigent and a championship will be other teams from the Southeast region based from perennial prep powers Jesuit, Brother Martin and Hahnville high schools.
By contrast, Gauthier & Amedee is comprised of players from Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant. Dutchtown and EAHS lost in the first round of the state playoffs, while St. Amant advanced to the quarterfinals. The fact no Ascension team won a high school title also provides motivation, Morgan said.
“None of us accomplished our goal of winning a state title during the high school season,” Morgan said. “We see this as a second chance.”
St. Amant graduate Austin Tanner, a left-hander, maintains friendships even amid parish rivalries. Tanner said those friendships helped G&A bounce back from a .500 record in 2012.
“During the season, we’re friends, but everybody wants to take everybody else out (competitively),” Tanner said. “But when we play together we’re all in it for the same thing. We all get along well ... It means a lot, because we play as a team.”
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