MR. PREP ON NEVER GIVING UP, BASEBALL FINALS HOPEFULS:
FEATS OF DETERMINATION
Archbishop Rummel senior Cyril Grayson and the Jesuit baseball team have at least one thing in common: They don't accept defeat very well.
Grayson, who signed a track and field scholarship with LSU in March, won two gold medals at last week's LHSAA State Track and Field Championships at Bernie Moore Stadium, while Tulane scored two runs late in a regional round game to defeat Ruston, 2-1.
During the 100-meter dash, a race that is hardly Grayson's specialty (although he qualified for the nine-man field) he ran as hard as he could to get points for his school, but he suddenly grabbed the back of his left thigh a few meters shy of the finish line. Experiencing great discomfort, Grayson limped across the finish line in sixth place.
Amazingly, despite the near tragic final strides, Grayson turned in a 10.97 time, just three-tenths of a second behind the winner, Hanoj Carter of Byrd High.
Watching from the side was Dennis Panepinto, the former Brother Martin head track coach who is an official the LHSAA uses at its top meet. Panepinto, currently principal at St. Matthew the Apostle School in River Ridge, quickly summoned a trainer to attend to Grayson, whose day appeared to be over.
Several minutes later, Grayson was among the competitors at the starting line for the 800-meter run. He said his hamstring still hurt, but he wanted to run anyway. And he ran...and ran... and ran some more. He outlasted the field and crossed the finish line ahead of the field in 1:53.53.
That should have been vindication enough. But, no. Grayson was determined to run the 400-meter dash, an event in which he was the reigning champion. Still admitting that the left hamstring felt sore, Grayson circled the Bernie Moore oval in 47.68 seconds to successfully defend his title and end his prep career as a double champion.
His heart and determination was a key reason LSU wanted him on campus next fall. When he was recruited, Grayson was told by an LSU track official, "We don't know what we're going to do with you, but we want you."
On Wednesday, Jesuit's baseball team faced elimination in its final home game of the Blue Jays' first season playing at John Ryan Stadium. Ruston, a team which had beaten Jesuit, 6-5, in a tournament hosted by Brother Martin on Feb. 24, held a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning.
But tight games have not been much of an issue for Coach Joey Latino's squad, which last season won the school's 19th state title, dating back to 1933. When Jesuit came to bat on the brink of elimination in its final chance, it had recent history on its side. In games determined by one run this season, the Blue Jays' held a 7-2 edge on its opponents.
Catcher Matt Robert started the inning off with a single to center and advanced to seconds on Bearcat centerfielder Ivan Wilson's error. Latino sent in courtesy runner Benson Tucker, who used his speed to race home with the tying run on Spencer Miller sharp single to right center.
Latino sent pinch runner Mason Koppins in to run for Miller. The additional speed set up the Jays' winning run when Koppins sprinted safely to second on a passed ball. Matt Breaux calmly laid down a sacrifice bunt that got the runner to third to set the table for Dylan Weston's slashing single to right field that plated Koppins with the coup-de-grace.
Little heralded in Jesuit's victory but just as key as the seventh-inning heroics were two plays that saved the Blue Jays from a 2-0 deficit. On back-to-back plays in the fifth inning, Jesuit left fielder Austin Duncan made a diving catch of a Ruston shot to left-center after making a long sprint toward the ball. Pitcher Jonathan Hess then caught a bullet in its glove of a shot through the box that would have scored a run. Instead, it was the third out of the inning. Another result of determination.
THREE CATHOLIC LOCALS MAKE STATE TOURNAMENTS
Baseball fans who are on hand at Tulane's Turchin Stadium for this weekend's Class 5A Baseball Championship Tournament will get to see two of the state's premier pitchers – Jesuit's Emerson Gibbs and Rummel's Mitch Sewald. Both are scheduled to start against their schools' quarterfinal round opponents on Friday.
Rummel, a No. 10 seed, will face No. 15 Hahnville at 4 p.m. Jesuit's the No. 5 seed, will oppose No. 4 Byrd at 7 o'clock.
Holy Cross made it to the semifinals of the Class 4A tournament in Sulphur, where the Tigers will face the top seed, St. Thomas More at 7 p.m.
No one will forget the classic battle Gibbs and Sewald staged on April 13. It drew the ire of the media from ESPN down to some local "pundits." Neither pitcher wanted to yield to the other.
Gibbs dished out 13 strikeouts and allowed just one run off six hits, when he pitched the first full 15 innings. He also retired 21 consecutive batters beginning in the sixth. Gibbs walked only one batter, but more impressively, the senior pitched a whopping 193 balls. Sewald worked 10 innings, throwing 154 pitches. Neither was around long enough for the decision, a 2-1 Jesuit win in 18 innings.
Rummel Athletic Director Phil Greco said he received a phone call and e-mail from an ESPN reporter, who wanted to know how he was going to discipline his coach, Nick Monica. Jesuit AD Dave Moreau received a similar call.
Greco's reply was, paraphrasing, "Internal matters are none of anyone's business but Rummel's."
Moreau's reply was similar to Greco's.
Jesuit's players are monitored by the school's own orthopedic doctor, Dr. Joseph Licciardi, who sits in the team dugout. Licciardi said that Gibbs was still strong in the later innings because of his fluid throwing motion that puts little stress on his shoulder joint and ligaments.
While the prisoners of a 100-pitch count stated their disdain for the overtime work of the two young pitchers, Hall of Fame baseball coach, Frank Misuraca had his own take: "If a pitcher has to come out of a game after 100 pitchers, shouldn't the catcher come out, too? He threw as many pitches (and from a squatting stance, which puts stress on the ligaments around the knee)."
Misuraca, a former Jesuit coach and AD, noted, "If anyone asked me about the pitch count, I'd tell then, 'Let me know when it gets to 300.'"
SIZING THEM UP
Jesuit enters the game with a 25-7 record. Byrd, which swept all 15 District 1-5A games, is 27-8. But the Yellowjackets have a loss to Ruston, 7-1, in an early Shreveport tournament.
Rummel (23-10), the No. 10 seed, has the easier side of the bracket. If the Raiders and Sewald get past Hahnville (25-12), they would face the winner of the Lafayette-Acadiana game on Saturday. Lafayette is seeded No. 6 and Acadiana at No. 14. On the other hand, the Jesuit-Byrd victor will meet the winner of No. 1 Barbe. Vs. No. 9 Dutchtown, a much more difficult semifinal round opponent.
Jesuit has won state championships in 1933 through 1936, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1945 through 1947, 1950, 1961, 1979, 1980, 1985, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2011.
Rummel's five titles came in 1974, 1981, 1987 1989 and 1997.
Holy Cross (25-10) swept District 10-45A in its first season as a Class 4A team. Its opponent, St. Thomas More (27-5) dropped down from Class 5A where, as a No. 12 seed in 2011, it was eliminated by No. 5 Barbe, 10-0, in the regional round.
The Tigers advanced to the Class 3A semifinals last year where they were eliminated by No. 2 Parkview Baptist, which lost to Livonia for the state title. Holy Cross was the No. 3 seed.
No player has hit a fair ball over the fence at John Ryan Stadium this year. As a matter of fact, no one has hit the outfield wall on the fly, Jesuit coaches noted. Catcher Matt Robert came the closest when he blasted a ball that hit the ground at the bottom of the fence at the 379-foot distance. The stadium was configured and slightly enlarged to accommodate a football and soccer field as well as a baseball field. Its dimensions are 320 and 325 down the lines, 379 in the power alleys and 400 in straightaway center.
Brother Martin High School will hold its annual Crusaders Miracle Weekend on Sarurday, May 19, at Farley Field. The program includes baseball clinics for children ages 6-12 and for ages 13 and older from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. The clinics will be followed by featuring the Brother Martin baseball team and the Miracle League All-Stars. The youngsters can enjoy batting cages, fielding drills and a throwing clinic as well as games, food and fun. All proceeds will benefit the Miracle League of Greater New Orleans. For additional information, phone the school, 283-1651.
The local prep community lost two legends, who died last week: Al Ecuyer, an All-State guard who played on Jesuit's 1953 state championship team and Peter Calamari, an all-State lineman with Holy Cross, 1955-58. Ecuyer had an outstanding college career at Notre Dame before moving on to play in the Canadian Football League. Calamari was a standout lineman for Tulane. Earlier in the year, Walter Johnson, who anchored De La Salle's 1961 line as a guard, passed away. Johnson was the only Cavalier player on the state runner-up team named to the All-State team that year.
LHSAA Assistant Executive Director, Keith Alexander, marveled at the performances of McDonogh 35 sprinter Marcquita Stalbert, who won the Class 4A 100-meter dash in 11.67 seconds, the 400 in a composite record time of 53.73, then added a third gold medal in the 200-meter dash with a time of 23.96. Anderson asked what college this outstanding would attend next year, I reminded him that Stalbert is just a sophomore at '35. Her 400-meter time erased a record in 1980 by another Lady Roneagle, Maudeva Jackson (54.11).