Hahnville-based Otto Candies fought back from a 3-0 deficit in the semifinals of the American Legion state tournament to not only clinch a berth in the championship game, but also punch their ticket to the Mid-South Regional.
The is the first time in the program’s history that the team will advance to the regional tournament.
The players that make up the Otto Candies squad are used to comebacks. All of them were part of a Hahnville High School baseball team that reeled off 18-straight wins last season – most of which came in dramatic fashion. The streak finally came to an end in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament with a 4-2 loss to Archbishop Rummel.
But the confidence the players gained during that state tournament run is paying off in American Legion ball.
Against Brother Martin-based Peake BMW, Otto Candies trailed 3-0 in the fifth inning before beginning their comeback. Connor Lorio scored on an errant pickoff attempt and Otto Candies loaded the bases later in the inning after Easton Melancon and Dylan Keller drew walks. Peake starter Jonathan Ebersole hit Ty Cologne to make the score 3-2, and Travis Faucheux singled to tie the game at 3-3.
Tyler Simmons gave Otto Candies the lead with a sacrifice fly.
Though Peake BMW tied the game again in the sixth, a single by Melancon put Otto Candies on top 5-4 in the bottom of the inning. Faucheux put the game out of reach a few batters later with a two-run single.
"The comeback win was indicative of our play from prep into legion," Otto Candies and Hahnville head coach David Baudry said. "We always feel as though we have a chance, understanding that you must continue to play hard to have a chance.
"It is a mind set that it is a long game and we need to play one pitch at a time."
Though Otto Candies fell 5-2 to Jesuit-based Retif Oil in the American Legion state championship game, the team lives to fight another day in the Mid-South Regional. Since the regional tournament is held in New Orleans, two teams from Louisiana have a chance to compete.
Retif Oil will play as the host team, while Otto Candies will go into the tournament as the Louisiana champ. The Louisiana squads will join a pool of teams representing Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The winner heads to the American Legion World Series.
Baudry said he has been extremely impressed with his squad’s play over the last two weeks.
"Our pitching and defense have been consistent all summer, but in the past two weeks we have improved a great deal offensively," he said. "We have talked all summer about battling at the plate and we have done a great job of taking pitchers late into the count and getting big hits. We also have played extremely hard and competed at a very high level."
And Baudry said the Tigers success last season has really lit a fire under the squad.
"We would not have done as well had we not had the success in the prep season," he said. "That gave our players confidence and allowed them to relax and play. I think it helped them understand the game of baseball and what is needed to compete. It also made them hungry to continue that success and go further."
While the Otto Candies baseball team has never been to the Mid-South Regional, Hahnville’s new baseball coach has been through it all before. In 2006, Baudry led Rummel-based Nationwide Restoration to the national championship of the American Legion World Series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But he is taking things one step at a time, telling his squad to enjoy every moment of the Mid-South Regional.
"This is the best of American Legion baseball. They will get an opportunity to compete close to their homes against teams from other states," he said. "This is special because it is something that this program has never experienced and we hope to use this as a first step to have continued success in American Legion as well as in prep."
Because the American Legion league is for those players aged 19 and under, three of Hahnville’s graduating seniors have gotten the chance to play with their former teammates all summer long. Those players, including Travis Faucheux, Mike Ford and Cody Farrell, have made Otto Candies a formidable opponent for any squad.
"We would have a nice ball club without our seniors, but with their talent and experience it gives us a chance to compete at a higher level," Baudry said. "We will use January and February to build on the success we have had in the summer, and the returners will lead the way.
"We have had some younger guys step up and show a great deal of improvement."
Otto Candies kicks off Mid-South Regional play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Kirsch Rooney Stadium in New Orleans. They will take on the American Legion champion from Oklahoma.