By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports
If the Louisiana Softball Coaches Association’s final Top 10 poll holds true to form on Saturday (April 28), Mount Carmel will repeat as champion of Division I. The LSCA has ranked the 2017 Division I champion as the top Select school in its Class 5A poll.
I realize the casual reader may easily get confused when one school is classified in Class 5A and also designated as a Division I school.
But that’s part of the quirky playoff system that separates Select (private, Catholic and charter schools) from non-Select (traditional public schools).
It’s a grouping that was designed by public school principals to assure each other that they could call one of their own a “state” champion without having to play against a team that may be better.
But most of you already know the fallacy of the split playoffs all too well and why this column never refers to the champion of a split playoff as “state champion,” but rather “Division” or “Class” champion, as it pertains to public and non-public schools.
According to the LSCA’s final season rankings, the favorites to win softball championships in Sulphur this weekend are Mount Carmel (Select Division I) and Ouachita Parish (non-Select Class 5A); Parkview Baptist (Select Division II) and Morgan City (non-Select Class 4A); Calvary Baptist (Select Division III) and Brusly (Class 3A) and so on in other smaller divisions.
The poll gets complicated because the LHSAA had to combine some classes to create a few divisions.
Two that affect the local Catholic school playoff brackets are Archbishop Hannan and St. Charles Catholic.
By enrollment, the two are classified as 3A. But they are placed in Division II, when, theoretically, they should be in Division III.
Hannan is the No. 2 seed in the second-highest division behind Parkview Baptist. The Hawks were scheduled to face No. 7 De La Salle in the quarterfinal round on April 26 at Sulphur’s Frasch Park Softball Complex.
When the principals voted to make the first two rounds of the class and division championship baseball tournament a best-of-three series, the idea was to make every team exhaust its pitching staffs. The teams that survived this attrition would take home the first-place hardware.
No longer would a team be able to coast to a championship with just one or two outstanding pitchers. But the downside is an extra day on the road for half the playoff contenders.
A case in point: Hannan’s baseball team is a lower seed and will have to face St. Louis at Legion Park in Lake Charles on April 27. The second game between the two will be played at noon the next day (an overnight stay for Hannan’s team, coaches and managers).
If the two have split the series, they will meet in a rubber game at 3 p.m. on April 28, with the winner moving on.
That’s no big deal for Archbishop Shaw vs. Jesuit or St. Augustine vs. Archbishop Rummel in the best-of-three Division I games. The schools are in the same district and are located just a few miles apart. No overnight stays or meals and motel costs.
But Pope John Paul II has to play a Division III series at Calvary Baptist in Shreveport. If the Jaguars win the first two games, which will be played just hours apart on April 26, they won’t have to spend the night 337 miles away from home. But a four-hour bus ride is no fun, win or lose.
The best-of-three format will be played through the first two rounds before the tournament goes to a single elimination through the final two rounds in Sulphur.
If St. Augustine could develop a successful contingent of athletes who specialize in field events, the Purple Knights would be one of the top track and field teams in Class 5A.
There is no question that when it comes to speed, St. Aug can compete in the individual short sprint events, the shorter relays and the 110-meter hurdles.
The Purple Knights finished third in team scoring behind John Curtis and Brother Martin by scoring a respectable 93 points in the District 9-5A meet last week. But just 23 were tallied in field events. Just three field competitors – Christopher Confident in the discus, Jeron Alexander in the triple jump and Jahiem Walter in the high jump – qualified for the Region III meet.
St. Aug displayed its speed in the short sprints, its trademark.
The Knights opened the running events by winning the 800-meter relay in 1:28.73. Donovan Rolland won the 200-meter dash in 22.36 and ran legs on two second-place relay teams.
But the most outstanding sprinter was Archbishop Rummel’s Jermie Walker. The junior won a blanket finish in the 100-meter dash, just a half-step ahead of two Purple Knights.
Walker recorded an 11.18. Rolland was second in 11.19 and St. Aug teammate Terroll Jolla finished in 11.21.
Walker also won the 400-meter dash in 49.47 and finished second to Rolland in the 200-meter dash.
Dominican was the high point scorer among the traditional Catholic girls’ schools in the district meet with 74.5 points, behind first-place finishes by Miriam Waguespack in the discus, Abby Slattery in the javelin, Sarah Becnel in the pole vault, Cecella Chaney in the 100-meter hurdles and Alex Rosenbohn in the 300-meter hurdles.
In District 9-4A, Cabrini was the queen of the track, and in a big way.
Led by a solid contingent of field athletes, the Crescents amassed 180 points to win by 61 points over second-place Carver.
Jailen Doyle, winner of the girls’ discus and javelin events, was named the MVP of the field events.
Cabrini won six field events and added two more wins in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Speaking of MVPs, Hannan’s Caroline Standley earned that honor in District 7-3A by winning the girls’ javelin (125-9) and triple jump (34-2 1/2) as the Lady Hawks placed second to Albany with 80 points.
The Hawks also placed second in the boys’ district meet with 100 points, half of which were scored by winning five events.
Brother Martin and Mount Carmel won the boys’ and girls’ championships, respectively, at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class 5A Region IV Tennis Tournament sponsored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl on April 16-17 at the City Park Tennis Center.
Brother Martin upended Jesuit to snap a nine-year run of championships by the Blue Jays, while Mount Carmel’s victory over Dominican snapped a streak of five straight titles. Both Brother Martin and Mount Carmel were second last year.
The Cubs had finished second for the last five years.
The top singles story was in girls’ action as Mount Carmel’s Taylor Garcia successfully captured her fourth straight regional title. Garcia, who will play tennis at Washington & Lee University in the fall, defeated teammate Julia Kapusta in the finals, 6-0, 6-0.
In boys’ singles action, Jesuit’s Jojo Sandoz upended defending champion Ethan Bosch from Brother Martin, 6-0, 6-4.
Brother Martin’s Ben Chanes and Matthew Armbruster teamed up to win the boys’ doubles championship with a 6-2, 6-4 triumph over fellow Crusaders Hunter Kael and Jack Robinson. On the girls’ side, the Mount Carmel tandem of Caroline Arnold and Niki Bountovinas posted a 6-3, 6-1 championship victory over Kacey Pappas and Katey Brennan, also from Mount Carmel.
Each quarterfinalist in singles and doubles qualified for the LHSAA state championships to be played next week in Monroe. Jesuit has won nine straight state boys’ tennis titles.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.