Bulldogs expecting to expand on playoff run
DONALDSONVILLE - Ascension Catholic’s playoff run to the quarterfinals may have surprised some last season but not the Bulldogs. It was only a matter of time.
Ascension Catholic returned all but two starters from the year before and despite youth, had enormous potential which the Bulldogs lived up to.
“Last year, we had a lot of ups and downs,” Ascension Catholic head coach Todd Landry said. “They were times where we looked good and just couldn’t finish off games. When we got into the playoffs everything just kind of came together. It was definitely a surprise but I was definitely proud of the way the year ended and it has definitely rolled over to this year. We are very impressed with where the kids are right now.”
Ascension Catholic was knocked out of the playoffs by St. Martin’s Episcopal in the quarterfinals after defeating Oak Grove and St. Edmund. The Bulldogs lose only one senior in all-district shortstop C.J. Caballero, a leader who batted .276 with 22 runs and 16 RBI.
“Most of these guys have at least two years experience playing,” Landry said. “They have been out there and made the mistakes and learned from them. That is invaluable to a baseball player. They now have confidence to make a good play. I am confident that these kids are ready to go.”
PITCHING STAFF - Junior left-hander Charles Caballero pitched complete games in the Bulldogs’ playoff victories earning all-district and all-state honors while going 6-2 overall with a 1.94 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 54 innings.
“The strength is going to be our pitching staff,” Landry said. “Charles is one of those kids that has the ‘it’ factor. To start off with, he is a left handed pitcher and you don’t see a lot of them in high school. He can throw three pitches for a strike at any time in any count. That is difficult to do. That is what makes him special. He is always around the plate and knows where each pitch is. He sets up hitters well and that makes him tough.”
Sophomore right hander Adam Falcon also returns after seeing extensive action a season ago in both district and non-district play.
“He threw a lot of games for us last year and is throwing extremely well this year,” Landry said. “He is starting to get to that point of setting up hitters, too. He looks like he is ready to take charge.”
The Bulldogs depth at pitcher goes beyond that. Seniors Ross Noel and Tyler Kliebert and juniors Jordan Landry and Taylor Marcello all return with experience on the mound as well as junior Vernon Mouret who is coming off an arm injury.
“It is a very deep pitching staff and it is definitely our strength,” Landry said.
LINEUP - The Bulldogs’ lineup will look almost identical as last year led by left fielder Noel who earned District 9-1A MVP and all-state honors after batting .475 with a .775 slugging percentage, 33 RBI, 32 runs and two home runs.
“Ross is great hitter,” Landry said. “He has a good approach at the plate. He is strong and knows what he is doing. That is what makes him so tough. When he gets to the plate he is in control. He is very experienced hitter who has been hitting since he was a freshmen. He is just a guy we have come to expect a lot out of and he expects a lot out of himself.”
Ascension Catholic also returns all-district performers in senior catcher Kliebert, senior infielder Scott Charleville, junior infielders Marcello and Jessie Pizzolato and junior outfielders Landry and Brandon Burns. Kliebert hit .367 with 15 runs and 16 RBI last season, while Charleville batted .209 with six runs and 12 RBI at first base. Marcello moves from second base to shortstop after leading the Bulldogs with 34 runs and 13 stolen bases, while batting .380 with 16 RBI and Pizzolato returns to third following a season where he hit .243 with 25 runs and 13 RBI. Landry is back at right field after scoring 12 runs and driving in 13 and Burns will be the Bulldogs designated hitter after batting .386 with 17 runs and 18 RBI.
“Offensively, we are going to have to score some runs,” Landry said. “I don’t want to say that is our weak point, but it is something that will have to prove itself and hopefully it will produce as a strong point. Right now, swinging the bat may be our weakness at this point.”
Senior Blake Gregoire returns in centerfield and while sophomore Tre` Daze takes over at second base. Sophomore John Dupre` will provide depth in the infield and Caballero will also play in the outfield. Charleville and Marcello will backup Kliebert at catcher and Falcon is being worked at first base.
“You never say you don’t have a weakness,” Landry said. “I like our team at every position defensively. I think we are going to have a very solid defense even with backups. Our defense is going to be really strong so there really are no holes.”
SCHEDULE - Ascension Catholic opens the season at Brusly before taking on regionalist Episcopal (2A), Denham Springs (5A) and Lakeside (2A) in the Episcopal tournament. The Bulldogs then host Class 2A semifinalist University before facing Redemptorist, Christian Life and St. Matin's at the Redemptorist tournament. After hosting Plaquemine, the Bulldogs take on University, Bethany Christian and Tara at the University tournament. Games with Dunham, Episcopal, Crescent City and St. John close out the non-district slate. Ascension Catholic will also play Vermilion Catholic, St. John, Redemptorist, Hanson, Catholic Pointe Coupee and Patterson during district play.
“For the last two years, even when we had five freshmen starting, I have scheduled the tough games and that is the way you get challenged,” Landry said. “You don’t want to play teams that guarantee success and then when you have to play a tough team, they don’t know how to handle failure. We haven’t been very successful in our non-district schedule but this year, I feel we have a team that is a little more prepared to go into those games and face challenge. That is going to be a key point in our season to see how far we have come from last year.”
Ascension Catholic didn’t falter in district play a year ago and face White Castle, North Iberville, West St. John and East Iberville in 9-1A.
“You don’t want to say our district is weak but certainly there are teams in our district that don’t win as many games as some others,” Landry said. “I would think we are probably favorite to win the district but the kids have to go and earn that. You never like to think it is a lock because you have to go play the games and you have to win.”
OUTLOOK - Landry said the key for success at Ascension Catholic this year will be to stay healthy.
“Our pitching staff has to pan out to be as good as we think we can be,” Landry said. “We have a really deep pitching staff and solid defense. That gives you a chance to win games.
“Every team starts this time of year with hopes that they can win a state championship. There are seven or eight team with legitimate hopes at that. I would like to think we are one of those teams but at the high school level, it takes a lot of luck. You have to play well and it depends whether you are peaking going into playoffs which we were last year or you are on a downfall. Of course, we want to go on pass the quarterfinals but it is going to take a lot of luck and we have a lot of respect for the teams out there. They have some very good teams that are going to be trying to make that same bid. We want to be in that category at the end of the year.”