With an American Legion World Series trophy now gathering dust in the Jesuit High School trophy case, baseball fans might assume that the Jesuit-based team, Retif Oil, would be the team to beat heading into this weekend’s Louisiana State American Legion Tournament in Sulphur.
But that isn’t necessarily the case.
The Gonzales-based team of Gauthier & Amedee, which includes players from three Ascension Parish high schools, left New Orleans last week with the Southeast Regional championship after beating the defending champs 9-8 in the final. Because of that — and like it or not — Gauthier & Amedee now finds itself as the unofficial favorite to take this year’s state title.
Of course, everyone will have to see how it all plays out over the next few days at McMurray Park in Sulphur. There are worthy challengers, no doubt.
Besides the Gauthier-Amedee team, which is made up of players from Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant, and the ever-present Retif Oil, six other teams will contend for the state title beginning Saturday. They are the Brother Martin-based Peake BMW, the John Curtis-based River Ridge Patriots, the Hahnville-based Otto Candies, the Lafayette-based Delhomme Drillers, the Acadiana based Hyman Chiefs and the Crowley-based Crowley Millers.
Play gets underway at 9 a.m., with Otto Candies taking on Acadiana.
As he prepared for the tournament, Gauthier & Amedee coach Justin Morgan accepted his team’s designation as the one to beat — but reluctantly.
“I guess since we won the Southeast Regional, that makes us it,” Morgan said. “And if we had 10-run-ruled everybody in the Southeast Regional, then I would say, yes, that makes us the favorite going in. But all these teams are well-coached, and they’re going to play good baseball at this point. If we do that, then I think we have a chance to make a run and move on. We do have a nice team.”
As is the case in most baseball home-stretches, success for any team likely will come down to pitching. Gauthier & Amedee is solid there. In four games in last week’s Southeast Regional, the team started four different pitchers. Cole Stapler, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, started the first game against Retif; Austin Bane threw 7-innings of shutout ball against Peake BMW; Austin Millet threw against Curtis; Austin Tanner threw nine innings against Otto Candies and Evan Mativi started the championship game against Retif.
“I really like our pitching staff, and we have a lot of guys in the bullpen, a bunch of strike-throwers,” Morgan said. “If you can do that, as a pitching staff, that’s the key. We can’t control who the other teams throw against us.”
Last year, Retif was the team that was said to be “loaded” with talent for last summer’s World Series run, including several just-graduated players and college freshmen. This year, only pitcher C.J. Avrard returns from the starting lineup. But that doesn’t mean anyone is overlooking the once-and-former Blue Jays — or anyone else.
“They’re a different team this year,” Morgan said. “They were a veteran team last year and obviously. They had a really good ballclub, obviously. That’s not a genius statement. They won the World Series. Our kids look at that, and that’s where they want to be. It’s fun to play those types of teams because we can see where we stand. They still have a solid team this year. They’re still Jesuit.”