Gators rebuilding after disappointing finish
ST. AMANT - St. Amant had high expectations a year ago. And they were just. The Gators returned a nucleus who brought the proud program back to the state tournament and a berth in the semifinals the year before. But St. Amant faltered in district play, lost a playoff game to Destrehan, 2-1, for third place and failed to make the postseason.
“It was very disappointing,” St. Amant head coach Bob Lemons said. “We had high expectations to make the state tournament again and we had a letdown in the middle of district play. We started off OK and then went through a tough spell. At the end, we had to win out and got a couple of good pitching performances to give us a chance to make the playoff game. We just didn’t win the flip of the coin between three teams and we had to play Destrehan who beat us four times last year.”
The Gators lose 14 seniors from that squad led by LSU signee William Delatte, who hit .455 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs and all-district selections in Micah Gautreau, Zane Michel, Cameron Babin, Johnny Persac, Dean Elwood and Lee Nasser.
“We were hit heavy with graduation,” Lemons said. “You can see it. It is a scary thought. People ask how are we and we really don’t know. We’ve got some ability here but it isssss just a matter of crossing the white line and executing.
If St. Amant wants to make its 13th overall appearance in the state tournament, they must rely on an inexperienced squad.
“Right now we are not very good at pitching, hitting or defense,” Lemons said. “We are not real strong in any of those three areas right now. There is not one that I feel confident in right now but if I had to choose one, it would probably be defense. We have some juniors and seniors that didn’t get to play a lot last year. Some sophomores got some valuable time but we just don’t have enough players starting this year that got experience last year. There are a lot of newcomers and it is just a wait and see approach.”
PITCHING STAFF - Delatte, Gautreau and Michel were the clog of Gators’ pitching staff last season.
“We lost a lot,” Lemons sid. “(Delatte) was the complete package as far as a high school baseball player and had no flaws in his game but he was hurt at the end of last year. (Michel and Gautreau) did well down the stretch.”
Junior right-hander Dillon Morin has the most experience on St. Amant’s staff this season after recording a 2-2 record a year ago with a 3.79 ERA.
“He is just a competitor and at times has shown that he can shut people down for five innings,” Lemons said. “He has the most varsity experience coming back.
Senior right-handers Dane Morin and Caleb Templet and junior right-hander Dylan Delaune are expected to fill out the staff.
“(Dane Morin) has got some physical abilities,” Lemons said. “He just has to put it together. (Delaune) had an outstanding summer but right now he is on the shelf.”
Senior right-hander Christian Berthelot and junior right-hander Dillon Savoy are top out of the bullpen.
LINEUP - St. Amant’s inexperience shows up in the lineup and on the field as well. Dillon Morin will take over at shortstop after playing extensively at third last season while batting .269 with 13 RBIs and earning all-district recognition.
Junior Lee Elisar will split time at catcher and in the infield, while Templet is penciled in at second and Delaune will handle first.
“They saw the lineup on a regular basis last year,” Lemons said. “Other than that, there is no varsity experience coming back. I hoping my infield is going to step up. We have some guys in the outfield that can track them down. Defense should be our strongest suit because we have guys that work hard at what they do.”
Junior Jacob Templet rounds out the infield at third. Seniors A.J. Bonadona and Adrian Bourgeois and junior Kahn Petite will be in the outfield while junior Kenny Wilkins is the Gators’ designated hitter.
“It is going to take two or three guys that collectively throughout the year be productive,” Lemons said. “Last year, guys we were counting on didn’t have good years and our replacement guys didn’t do as well as the guys the year before. We were in a different district that from top to bottom was a lot stronger than the old district we were in. We have to be successful throughout the lineup and scratch for runs because we don’t have power hitting. We have to do the little things right to not help the other team because we don’t have the capabilities to overcome that.”
SCHEDULE - St. Amant’s non-district schedule features 17 teams that made the playoffs in 2007, including defending state champion Zachary (4A) and runner-ups Jesuit (5A) and Shaw (4A). Tournament teams Airline, Mandeville, Catholic, Ponchatoula, Catholic and Dutchtown are also on the schedule. The Gators will also host the St. Amant Invitational and games in the Stephen Richardson Tournament and Jay Patterson Shootout and travel to the Bayou State Prep Classic in Monroe.
“Our schedule is like it is every year,” Lemons said. “There is no cupcakes on there. We play the best of the best.”
In District 6-5A play, St. Amant will face quarterfinalist Dutchtown, regionalists East Ascension and Hahnville and Destrehan who was eliminated in the first round.
“Everybody in our district in my mentality is better than us and we have to beat them to advance,” Lemons said. “That is the way I look at it every year. Until we prove them wrong, that is the way it is and it is like that this year probably more than ever because we don’t have returning starters. Everybody has more returning in all phases.”
OUTLOOK - Despite inexperience, Lemons said expectations at St. Amant have not changed and he believes the Gators will find success when games are spanned out.
“When it comes down to district you play three games a week,” Lemons said. “We might not do well in a four-game weekend but when we space it out we should be able to piece something together to compete. We are not that experienced on the mound, so in a weekend tournament, you might see our flaws but when we take it one game at a time, we should better. I am hoping that holds true.
“My expectations are to make the playoffs and make a run at just like every year. It can happen for this group of guys this year. I hope I am being realistic. I know it sounds possible but you have to believe what you say.”