New faces, same expectation: winning
Only one more win would top last season’s run by the Destrehan Wildcats. That would be winning the state championship. Last year’s improbable run, in which the unranked Wildcats fell to Jesuit 8-2, was the second time in three years that Destrehan made to the final. In order to repeat that performance, they will have make it there without All-State MVP and first round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves Beau Jones. Looking toward this season, Coach Marty Luquet said, “We may not have the best district in the state, but we have two of the best teams: Hahnville and Destrehan. Year and year out, that stands up,” adding, “We are both very successful. That’s what makes it fun.” Luquet believes that once more Hahnville will provide their biggest challenge to his ball club, but it is one that he relishes.
“Everybody wants to talk about Beau Jones leaving. Not only did Beau leave, but 6 seniors with 16 years of experience with them,” said Luquet, as he felt those 16 years of leadership and experience will be the biggest gap. Along with Jones’ departure, Tyrone Wethers, Brandon Stevens, Alex Boudreaux, Jacob Long and Travis Wethers all left the team.
Even though he lost 6 seniors, Luquet looks forward to the youth movement his team is going through — one that every good program faces each four years as kids graduate.
“I think we are very talented, and it is time for these guys that have been waiting their turn,” said Luquet. “They are real excited about their opportunities.”
Pitching will lead this year’s lineup. Seniors Kyle Gardere, Ainsley Richoux and Lynn Matherne provide the anchor for the cast. Notably, each ace pitched in the championship, giving the Wildcats experienced leadership in the tight moments. “We are counting on those three to lead us through,” said Luquet. In addition to the pitching staff, Luquet says that the lineup is a mixture of power and speed on the offensive side of the ball.
Of the younger players, Luquet thinks junior left-hander Klye Shnowski could be a major factor for success this year.
“We think our strength is still going to be pitching, but we are going to have to play good defense behind them, said Luquet, adding that defense has been a little troubling in the scrimmages.
Not hiding behind the loss of such talent, Luquet said that his younger guys relish the turnover of players. “What makes our program good is that there are good players waiting to play,” said Luquet, adding, “I’m not worried about how young they are. I’m worried about how long it will take them to gel as a group.” The search for an identity provides Luquet’s biggest concern, saying, “If you gonna get us, you better get us early.” Luquet feels that if his unit turns in to a cohesive group, they could be dangerous.
Overall, Luquet thinks the program is heading in the right direction. “We expect to be successful; the kids expect to be successful; they fans expect to be successful. Everybody thinks that should be pressure, but it’s not,” as he said that he loves the challenge of being expected to win each year exacts, providing character for the players.