New Hahnville baseball coach David Baudry said the experience his squad gained during last yearís run to the Class 5A state quarterfinals - plus a successful summer campaign - is already paying big dividends this season.
The Tigers are currently 8-1 on the year with impressive victories over Dutchtown, Central Lafourche, Shaw, Lakeshore and Northshore. The senior-laden squad returns six starters who were all named to the District 8-5A all-district squad last season and four highly-touted pitchers, led by senior Brooks Vial.
"The experience they got last year and during the summer has been huge," Baudry said. "A lot of the situations that have come up this season, they have been through before. They know what to do when you fall behind by a run or need a big hit."
Though Hahnville lost four great players from last year with the graduation of Mike Ford, Cody Farrell, Travis Faucheux and Jake Cologne, they return talent all over the field. Senior Tyler Simmons hit .515 in district play last season with 16 RBIs, three doubles, a triple and a home run. Seniors Connor Lorio and Easton Melancon hit .466 and .384, respectively, last year. Juniors Dylan Keller and Ty Cologne were both named to the all-district second team squad.
The Tigers also return a pair of aces in Vial and junior Tyler Lamers. Last season, Vial went a perfect 3-0 during district play with 17 strikeouts in 14 innings. Lamers, a junior, was 2-0 in district play and gave up only seven hits in 13 innings.
Baudry said all of his returning players serve as additional coaches on the field.
"We have 11 seniors and they all learned from other guys who graduated. They are really doing a good job of taking a leaders role," he said. "It almost makes it so that all I do is manage because they take care of the little things. The pitchers follow what Brooks does and the infield follows what Simmons and Melancon do."
Baudry said Vial and Simmons have also stepped up as verbal leaders this season.
"They put a charge in the guys," he said. "It helps as a coach not to be the one doing all the talking."
Going into the season, Baudry said he had question marks about how well his team would be defensively and whether or not they would have the offensive firepower needed to make a deep playoff run. He said the team is making impressive progress in both areas, having put up 73 runs in their first nine games.
"Iíve been very pleased with the way we have developed offensively," he said. "Weíve been progressing towards being a good offensive ball club and we are hitting around .330 as a team. On defense, we only had one error in three games over the weekend. I feel like for where we are at this point in the year, we are really progressing well."
Baudry knew coming into the season that his pitching staff would be one of the strengths of the team. Vial, Lamers, Zachary Calhoun and Todd Porche have all done well in the rotation.
"They have really done a nice job of limiting the other teamís opportunities," Baudry said.
But there are a few areas where Baudry would like to see some improvement, particularly in his teamís ability on the base paths. He would also like to see that offensive and defensive progress continue.
"Right now we are in the middle of the process, but we are moving in the right direction," he said.
The Tigers will be tested over the next two weeks as they play Barbe (8-1), St. Thomas More (8-2), Brother Martin (9-0) and West Ouchita (7-1). During that stretch Hahnville will also face West Monroe, Evangel and Holy Cross in back-to-back tournaments.
Baudry said playing that many games in such a short period of team will test the mettle of his squad and they will either sink or swim.
"In those two tournaments we are going to be playing some teams that have lofty records, but playing these tough teams early will help us get ready for district play and the post-season," he said. "During the early part of baseball you are playing five games a week opposed to three games a week in district and only five games overall in the playoffs.
"Itís better this way because you have to make adjustments from game to game. It puts a lot of responsibility on the players, but if they are successful that means we will likely have a nice year, get into the playoffs and win a few playoff games. We are going to find out just how good we can be."
|Hahnville pitcher Zachary Calhoun fires a strike during the Tigers 12-2 win over Mandeville on Tuesday.|