BRCC hopes to rise, shine at Miss-Lou Conference tournament

Advocate file photo by LIBBY ISENHOWER -- BRCC baseball coach L.J. Dupuy watches his team play from the dugout. Show caption
Advocate file photo by LIBBY ISENHOWER -- BRCC baseball coach L.J. Dupuy watches his team play from the dugout.

The season has not gone the way Baton Rouge Community College baseball coach L.J. Dupuy envisioned.

Two of his top pitchers from last year, Cody Smith and Steven O’Bryant, signed with Division I programs rather than return to BRCC for their sophomore seasons.

The starting catcher and his backup went down early in the year with injuries.

An offense Dupuy expected to cause nightmares for opposing pitchers has compiled only a .269 team batting average.

But the Bears (27-29) will have a chance to put behind all the hurdles they’ve hit when they head to New Orleans for the NJCAA Region 23 Division I tournament Saturday and Sunday at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.

BRCC, seeded second in the Miss-Lou tournament after finishing second to No. 3-ranked Delgado, opens against No. 3 seed Meridian at noon Saturday.

Naturally, Dupuy views No. 1 seed Delgado — which won four of six games against BRCC this season — as the team to beat in the three-team field.

BRCC won two of three against Delgado in New Orleans before being swept by the Dolphins later in the year.

“Small ball is the way we beat them the first time,” Dupuy said of Delgado. “I think that’s going to be the key again. Their pitching is really, really good. You’ve got to be able to play small ball to beat them. And we’ve been very good at that through the course of the year.”

The Region 23 schedule has each of the three Miss-Lou teams going head-to-head on the first day.

Meridian turns around to face Delgado in a 3:30 p.m. start after seeing BRCC in the opener. BRCC will play Delgado at 7 p.m. to complete Saturday’s action.

If all three teams finish Saturday with a 1-1 mark, then BRCC and Meridian will play again Sunday, and the winner will meet Delgado for the Region 23 title.

If one of the three teams loses twice Saturday, the remaining team with one loss will have to beat the remaining unbeaten team twice Sunday to win the tournament.

The champion of Region 23 advances to play in the South Central District tournament May 17-19.

Dupuy said Mason Liles (2-1, 2.61 ERA) will get the ball for BRCC in the opener against Meridian, leaving Jared Keating (6-5, 3.39) to pitch against Delgado. Austin Greer (5-3, 1.93) would pitch for the Bears if they advance to a third game.

Offensively, Dupuy will look to the likes of Jacob Williams, Bond Babin and Nicholas Ber to lead the way.

Williams is hitting .310 with three homers and 22 RBIs, followed by Babin at .304 with two homers and 15 RBIs. Ber is batting .294 with four homers and 29 RBIs.

“We didn’t hit the ball as well as I thought we would this year,” Dupuy said. “I thought we’d be well over .300. Not being as explosive offensively as I thought we’d be has really hurt us.”

It also hurt that Smith moved on to Louisiana-Lafayette and O’Bryant to McNeese State.

The Bears started the season 2-8, but showed their potential in taking two from Delgado in their earlier series. Dupuy said a tough nonconference schedule contributed to BRCC’s woes.

“We scheduled probably the toughest schedule we had because we expected to be a top 10 team,” Dupuy said. “I expected we’d win over 40 games. We just didn’t have the depth to overcome the injuries.”