Wildcats closing in on state tournament

Max Jacob
Max Jacob digs in the batter's box for ES&H.

Top two finishers at district tourney will make it

When the Destrehan-based ES&H Wildcats take the field today (June 28) at Lutcher, they will either be playing for the Second District West championship or gunning for a spot in the American Legion state tournament.

The Wildcats entered this week’s district playoff as the No. 2 seed, that coming via tiebreaker as the team wrapped up the Legion regular season tied for first place with St. Charles Catholic-based Townsend Homes, and Pedal Valves, which draws players from several area teams.

ES&H earned a 2-0 win in its playoff opener Monday over No. 5 seed Lutcher, which netted a Tuesday bye and a chance to earn its way to the state tournament with one more win on Wednesday (the game was scheduled to be played after press time) or today. The top two finishers in the double-elimination tourney make it to state, so even with a potential loss Wednesday, the Wildcats would still have the opportunity to qualify today.

“The way the tournament maps out, the second spot is a good place to be,” said ES&H coach Chris Mire, noting Monday’s win gave his team a day off and the chance to map out its pitching plan for the rest of the tourney. “The win means we’re playing to advance.”

The Wildcats are 9-8 this summer and have battled bouts of inconsistency, Mire said, something to be expected given the turnover of most of its starting lineup from prep season. Even so, the team has banked some quality wins over historically strong programs like Pedal Valves and Lutcher within its district.

Offensively, the Wildcats have had their very strong days, like its recent 14-3 win over Zachary, but also more difficult ones.

Monday’s win saw the Wildcats emerge winners with just one hit, but Dylan Weber scored the go ahead run on a ball hit by Max Jacob before Avery Schexnaydre walked in a run with the bases loaded in the 6th inning for a 2-0 win.

“We’re a bit Jekyll and Hyde with the bats,” Mire said. “We’ve had some really good wins, but lately we’ve struggled to find some offense. Our pitching is giving us a chance to win by throwing strikes. We’ve found a way to win, though it hasn’t always been pretty.”

The team’s top two pitching rotation spots are manned by returning starters Josh MacCord and T.J. Thomas. Dickie Gibbs has put together a quality summer as well, Mire said, and has made a strong case to be the team’s third starter next prep season.

Offensively, Jacob and Schexnaydre have emerged as big producers, while Weber has had a breakout summer and become the team’s leadoff hitter.

It was Thomas earning the win Monday by pitching 6.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out six. Jacob came in and closed things out for the save, not allowing a hit.

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