Otto Candies, others set sights on state tourney

Some baseball coaches say winning takes pitching. Some say it takes hitting or defense. Others say it takes luck — or a combination of all of those.

Maybe it just takes a coach like Dave Baudry.

Besides numerous trips to the prep baseball state tournaments over a 13-year career, Baudry has led two separate American Legion baseball teams to World Series championships. His Shaw-based team won in 2000 and his Rummel-based team won in 2006.

This weekend he begins his quest for a third as he leads the Hahnville-based Otto Candies team to Sulphur for the Louisiana State Tournament. Play begins Saturday at McMurry Park with Otto Candies taking on the Acadiana-based Delhomme Drillers at 9 a.m. Play will continue through August 2, with the winner advancing to the Mid-South Regional on Aug. 8-12 in Little Rock, Ark. This year’s World Series will be played Aug. 16-20 in Shelby, N.C.

To get to Arkansas, Otto Candies will have to survive a field of eight Louisiana teams still dedicated to summer ball, including three others from the New Orleans area. The Brother Martin-based Peake BMW, the Curtis-based River Ridge Patriots and the Jesuit-based Retif Oil, which just happens to be the defending World Series champion, who have qualified, as well as the Ascension conglomeration of Gauthier-Amedee, the afore mentioned Delhomme Drillers, the Crowley Millers and the Comeaux-based Heymann Chiefs.

And it’s a fairly wide open field. While Retif is the defending World Series champion, Peake finished as the No. 1 seed in the First District tournament, which was won by Retif. Gauthier-Amedee won the Southeast Regional over Retif 9-8 and is considered a strong favorite in the state tournament.

Hahnville is not unfamiliar with success. The football team has won six state titles; the baseball team has won five. But the last was in 1957. And before Baudry’s arrival, its Legion team had never advanced to the state tournament. Baudry said it’s all about the timing.

“This has been a fairly exceptional group on the field the last two years,” he said. “I think the strength of our team is still on the mound. We’ve pitched well all summer. Defensively, we’ve been there all summer. And offensively, we’re getting where we need to be. We’ve made great strides.”

Let’s start with the pitching. It begins, of course, with recently-graduated Brooks Vial, who led the prep team with a 6-3 record and a 1.49 earned run average and is 5-1 this summer.

“Brooks has been very, very solid going back through last summer,” Baudry said. “Day in and day out. He throws four pitches for strikes and he strikes people out.

“The guys like playing behind him because he works fast. They know he’s going to throw strikes. That’s why he’s our big- game guy.”

But Baudry has been blessed in the bullpen department. There’s Tyler Lamers, who came on strong at the end of last summer and has continued to lead his team this summer.Then there’s Tyler Simmons, Todd Poche, Mark Abate and Zac Calhoun. Actually, to name them all would be to list the whole roster, said Vial.

“We are a pitching team,” Vial said. “We knew coming in we had four or five arms we could count on. As the prep season went on, it turned to six. Now, it’s up to, like, eight or nine. It’s not as much pressure because you know you don’t have to go a whole game. There’s somebody else who can come in and get the job done.”

“I like where we are because I’ll be able to use guys early in the tournament who will be able to come back late,” Baudry said. “We’ll have those players who will have four or five days to recover then come back and throw at the back of the tournament.”

But it will take more than a little pitching to get through a strong field.

Vial said last summer was a learning experience for him and his teammates. This summer, however, has been more of a destination journey.

“We didn’t know what to expect last summer,” he said. “No one had ever been. Now we know what to expect. We know all the teams are going to be good.

“We know how hot it is. We know how to get through a nine-inning game. We spent all summer working to get back there.”