Unlike many of his contemporaries in the high school coaching fraternity, Grace King's Bobby Ledoux would never be characterized as nomadic.
First hired as an Irish baseball assistant coach back in 1987, Ledoux became an interim coach one year later and head coach one season after that. In the past 24 springs at King, his baseball squads have made the playoffs 12 times, including each season since 2005.
But King has never rubbed elbows in district play with the likes of powers Brother Martin, Jesuit and Rummel, who have combined for a mere 27 state baseball championships.
Prior to reclassification, King was looking at a possible partnership with Destrehan, Hahnville, East St. John and Ehret in one district or a new association with the remnants of the Catholic League, including former member Chalmette.
"It was not a case of wins or losses," said Ledoux of the decision. "It was about relationships. I think we have played Brother Martin every season since I've been here and we play Jesuit and Rummel each summer in American Legion. It was six of one and half a dozen of the other but I knew our power rating would be higher in the Catholic League."
But thus far that has not proved to be the case because of a weak pre-district schedule that has King teetering on the cusp of a possible playoff berth. At 17-5 and 4-3 in district play (through April 16), the Irish have Jesuit, Rummel and Chalmette left on their menu. Ideally, Ledoux would like to prevail in two of those matchups because a 1-2 finish would create uncertainty in the power ratings.
In a league featuring senior shutdown right-handers Emerson Gibbs of Jesuit, bound for Tulane, and Rummel rightie Mitch Sewald, bound for LSU, Ledoux has trust in four Irish pitchers, including three seniors.
Senior left-hander Chase Hymel (4-1 record, 2.73 earned-run average, 50 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings pitched) has thrown a perfect game against Bonnabel and saved the 7-6 victory against Rummel. He is a three-time All-District selection.
Evan Chacon, another senior right-hander, sports a 7-1 mark with 61 strikeouts in 45 innings and a 3.27 ERA. A transfer from St. Martin's, Chacon has thrown no-hitters against Ridgewood and Riverdale and gained the victory against Rummel. As a third baseman, he is hitting .515 with 32 RBIs.
The staff's third senior is right-hander David White (2-3 mark, 2.58 ERA, 55 Ks in 31 2/3 innings) who has lost games to quality opponents Jesuit and East Ascension and serves as the team's closer. As a shortstop-third baseman, White has a .365 average with 19 RBIs.
Ledoux won't bid adieu to right-hander Cody Cross, a sophomore with a no-hitter against Bonnabel and a 1.88 ERA coupled with a 3-0 mark. Cross, who also catches, hits .400 with 21 RBIs.
Centerfielder Trent Giambrone, a transfer from Rummel, paces the offense with a .571 average, 3 home runs and 32 RBIs. He has signed a scholarship with Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Miss. Joseph Kuchler, a sophomore transfer from Country Day, is hitting .333 with 20 RBIs. He plays second base and shortstop.
"This is one of my best teams," admitted Ledoux. "We have hit better than I thought and I have to give a lot of credit to Billy Lagasse, our fantastic pitching coach. To have four pitchers is like a perfect storm for us."
King has claimed district baseball championships in 1988, 2006 and 2007 but, on three postseason occasions, the Irish met Jesuit in the regionals and fell at the doorstep of the state Class 5A tournament, a goal not yet realized.
In the 32 years since the school became coeducational, King has yet to make a state football playoff appearance. The basketball program did reach a pinnacle in 2001 when forward Danny Granger signed with Bradley University and then finished at New Mexico before starring with the professional Indiana Pacers for the past seven seasons. Granger, an elite NBA player, commands an annual salary of $12 million, but his alma mater has yet to reach the state Top 28 tourney.
So Ledoux would like to accompany the Irish to unfamiliar postseason turf and reward the players for their praiseworthy effort.
"The students and administration have really bought into our program," he said. "We have a lot of fans at our games.
"This is the hardest-working group I have ever coached. They want to work and they want to practice constantly. They are, for the most part, over-achievers -- not a lot of college players – but they don't back down against anybody."
The Class 5A state tourney will be held May 11-12 at Turchin Stadium for eight teams.
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