To an opposing hitter, Jesuit right-hander Emerson Gibbs seems more frustrating than frightening.
With a somewhat unimposing 6-foot-1, 180-pound build, the Blue Jays' senior doesn't possess the type of fastball that makes batters jittery. His heater tops out at about 84-85 MPH so he doesn't blow them away as much as he puts them away.
"The word for him is efficiency," says Jesuit head coach Joey Latino. "There is too much of an obsession with velocity. He has 7- to 8-pitch innings and 80- to 85-pitch games. He is 9-1 this season; he's gone the distance in all nine of his victories. How many has he walked in 81 1/3 innings? Nine. His control is pinpoint; he throws strikes."
Jesuit (26-7) will wrap up the opening day of the state Class 5A tournament Friday at 7 p.m. against Byrd of Shreveport (27-8) in the quarterfinals at Tulane's Turchin Stadium.
In addition to his 9-1 mark, Gibbs has compiled an 0.77 earned run average with 62 strikeouts. In his two most recent seasons, he is 17-0 as a starter.
Gibbs, who was a varsity starter at St. Martin's in the 7th grade, entered Jesuit the next year. He credits his older brother Brian, a former All-Metro pitcher for the Jays who was a senior in 1990, with helping him at the same position.
"Brian taught me a lot about the mental side of pitching -- how to keep your cool and how not to worry about the base-runners, just the next pitch," said Emerson. "Sometimes I do get mad out there but you can't show it."
Byrd, the District 1-5A champion with a 15-0 league mark, claimed state baseball titles in 1930 and '56 and will be seeking its first tourney title on the state's highest classification since the two-day format was introduced in 1969. Jesuit, a seven-time state tourney champion, including 2011, owns a state record 20 baseball championships.
Byrd sports a No. 4 seed; District 9-5A champion Jesuit is No. 5. Barbe, a five-time champion since 1998, is No. 1.
"I think it's rare but this is one year I think any one of the eight teams can win this thing," said Latino.
"There is not much I do not like about my team. They are unselfish and focused and they have embraced the fact that this is a new year. There has not been a lot of talk about 'defending.' They know they can write their own chapter (of history)."
Right-hander Jonathan Hess (4-1, 0.97 ERA) and junior left-hander Cody Migliore (5-0, 1.77 ERA) follow in the rotation should Jesuit prevail. Sophomore third baseman Spencer Miller leads Jesuit with a .361 average, followed by senior second baseman Matt Braud at .310. Senior shortstop Armand Daigle has 22 RBIs.
"We have confidence in our pitching and defense," said Latino, who starts six seniors. "I think too much has been made about our offensive struggles. It is an area of concern but we get runs when we need them."
After claiming three one-run victories in the 2011 tourney, Jesuit has been involved in 11 one-run games this spring, prevailing in eight.
"That shows the fight in us," said Gibbs. "We do not stop playing until the final out."
"I think it is a combination of things," added Latino. "They have a belief that lasts until the last out. And when you do it again and again, the expectation is there -- so long as there's an out left."
A case in point: Jesuit rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the regionals to stave off elimination by Ruston with a 2-1 victory.
Gibbs will be returning to the Turchin Field mound next season as a Tulane freshman after signing with the Green Wave during November's early signing period. Older brother Brian pitched there too.
"I always liked Tulane and they showed the first interest in me," said Emerson. "They offered me in mid-summer and I took it."
Gibbs, who throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and cut fastball, says he wants to "add velocity and muscle" for college. But he will look back fondly on his time at Carrollton and Banks.
"As a student here for five years, I have learned the work ethic and how to be independent, to be on your own with your academics. Athletics has taught me how to be a team player. It's not about you but the team."
Three victories would establish Jesuit as the first repeat Class 5A champion since Barbe in 2000-'01. The Blue Jays last earned repeat titles in 1979-'80. Another chapter awaits.
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