Lacking pedigree, Destrehan Wildcats battled, prospered anyway

Though just a few days shy of his team’s season-ending loss to Sam Houston in the Class 5A quarterfinals, Destrehan baseball coach Chris Mire couldn’t help but enjoy reflecting on the accomplishments of  a group of players he grew especially fond of.

“They weren’t the team that was supposed to get us back to this point,” Mire said. “We feel like we should get to the quarterfinals and be in that top eight every year. But coming into the year, we didn’t know that this would be that group that got us back.”

The Wildcats (24-11) had seen their season end in the opening round in back-to-back years, both losses coming at home as result of upset by lower seeds. DHS also lost several front line players from its 2018 team, headlined by the graduation of now LSU starting pitcher Landon Marceaux, and on top of it suffered injuries to key members of its pitching staff in Joshua MacCord and Dickie Gibbs, costing each player time this year.

But, as Mire noted, this team consisted of fighters.

“A lot of guys struggled to find time in JV and didn’t get their chance until last summer,” Mire said. “It’s a testament to them. It’s not just that they got the job done, but how they did it. We had a different guy come through each time, and they did it in different ways.”

Take Dylan Weber, for example.

“He was hit by a pitch 19 times this season,” Mire said with a chuckle, also noting Weber drove in a run in the quarterfinals by absorbing a pitch with the bases loaded. “He was mad because he wanted to get to 20. He hit sixth and had a .500 on-base percentages between that and the walks …

“For all of them, it’s always, ‘What do you need me to do, coach?’”

The team’s moxie was on display in the best-of-three series against Sam Houston over the weekend, battling a team ranked fifth in the nation among prep teams by USA Today in a pair of tough matchups.

Sam Houston clinched a semifinal berth when it captured a 4-0 victory in Lake Charles Saturday to secure a two games to none sweep in the series. It won the first game 8-5 on Friday.

The second-seeded Broncos, sprinkled some clutch hitting around a dominant effort by pitcher Kyle Bartley, who tossed six shutout innings. Bartley allowed five hits and struck out five before giving way to relief.

“He kept us off balance … he made big pitches with his curve when he had to, got ground balls when he had to,” Mire said.

Michael Harlow’s 2-for-3, two RBI day paced Sam Houston (36-4) offensively.

For Destrehan, T.J. Thomas took the loss. He went one out shy of a complete game effort, allowing four runs on 12 hits while striking out four.

Sam Houston (36-4) got on the board early, scoring a pair of first inning runs when four of the Broncos’ first five batters singled, including a two RBI hit by Harlow.

“T.J. was a little up in the first inning and they took advantage, but after that he settled in and really pitched an outstanding game. We just couldn’t push runs across, though,” Mire said.

Those were indeed the only runs scored until Sam Houston pushed a pair across over the sixth and seventh.

In the first game, DHS fell 8-5 after the Broncos broke the game open in the late innings.

Meeks, the Broncos’ ace, went six innings to earn the win. He allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits and four walks. He struck out eight. For Destrehan, Josh MacCord went four innings and took the loss, allowing five runs, three earned, on five hits and a walk.

Ahman Morris finished the game with four RBIs, going 2-for-4 to lead DHS offensively.

“You obviously want to win, but I think our guys competed and battled their butts off,” Mire said. “I think we left there having earned their respect. But I think, clearly, the better team won.”

Destrehan will lose 10 seniors from this team, including several starters. But for those returning players, Mire believes the experience of the playoff run will ultimately serve them well.

“Now they know what they’re playing for, what they’re working for,” Mire said. “Before getting a taste of that, it’s just me telling them stories about what it’s like. You don’t have to motivate as much after they get a taste of that, because they want it themselves.”

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