As he had time and time again for the St. Charles Catholic Comets, Robby Gilbert came through when his team needed him most.
Gilbert, one of approximately 20 players in the Comets program that resides in St. Charles Parish, was named MVP of the Division II championship game as helped lift his team to a 7-4 victory over University Lab — and with it, the first-ever state baseball championship for a program that’s long been a top contender.
Gilbert went 3-for-4 with a triple, three RBIs and a run scored for the Comets (32-8). It was a fitting final achievement for a player who batted .400 in each of the past two seasons and drove in nearly 100 runs in that time.
Four of the Comets’ nine starters call St. Charles Parish home, and each made their mark in the title game. Right-fielder Joe Chiarella tallied an RBI, Jason Bosco stole a base and Bryce Authement played his usual strong defensive game in left field.
St. Charles Catholic had reached the state championship game seven previous times, but had been unable to break through—though the Comets came close on several occasions. Comets baseball coach Wayne Stein was there for six of those games, some as head coach, others as an assistant under his predecessor — and current Destrehan High athletic director — Paul Waguespack.
“It was everything we hoped it would be,” said Stein, also a Comets alumnus.
“Going into it, we talked about the fact you can only control so much … you play to the best of your ability and things may or may not go your way. This time, I felt like everything went our way, from the weather, to the hard hit balls that were right at us.
“Ultimately, this was a group of kids who believed and stuck together. No matter what happened, they never flinched.”
St. Charles is a multiple time district champion and a program that’s made countless deep playoff marches. Its hallmark has always been consistency.
“I always felt that we’ve had championship level kids, championship level facilities, championship level support from our parents … we just didn’t have the gold trophy to go with it,” said Stein.
They do now, though.
While St. Charles charged out to a significant lead in the championship, building a 7-0 lead on the back of a big six-run third inning, nobody can ever say it came easy for the Comets.
One postseason prior, St. Charles held a one game to none lead in its best of three series against Teurlings Catholic, which was taking aim at its third consecutive state crown. A day after SCC’s game one win, Teurlings swept a doubleheader, and the Comets out of the playoffs, en route to earning that third consecutive state title.
“Talking to the players after, we asked what did Teurlings have that we didn’t … it wasn’t talent, it wasn’t coaching, at least our guys didn’t think that was it … it was a championship culture, willingness to do whatever it takes to win, and we had to really evaluate ourselves in that area. It became our battle cry this year,” Stein said.
In the state quarterfinals this season, the script was flipped, with Teurlings winning game one. St. Charles would have to down a three-time defending champion twice in one day—on the champion’s home field.
“Mission impossible,” Stein said.
His team found a way, sweeping the No. 2 seed that day en route to a championship run that saw SCC, the No. 6 seed in the bracket, knock out its top three seeds.
After so many near misses, Stein admitted he began to wonder if there were a Red Sox or Cubs-like curse following his team around.
Like the Red Sox and Cubs, the Comets finally got their trophy.
“There was a different hero at every stage for us,” Stein said. “This was a true team of guys who bought into one another … I’m glad to be a part of it all, but as I told them, ‘this is your season.’ It was a player-built, player-driven team and ultimately, we got the big result.”