Spartans relying on tradition of success in ‘09

Peter Silas Pasqua
East Ascension senior Adam Trahan returns after earning all-district last season batting .357 and driving in 24 runs

Johnny Ambeau Park continues renovations in 2009 as the East Ascension baseball program is in the progress of installing an indoor hitting facility through funds accumulated from a fundraiser for an alumni square at the entrance of the stadium which will honor former players with an engraved brick. According to second-year head coach Wayne Grenfell, the 70 x 75 facility has been a priority since he arrived.

“We need to have a place to hit when there is inclimate weather,” Grenfell said. “For us to compete with the good teams in Class 5A, we have to be able to not miss any practice. That is the one of the biggest things  needed to be accomplished when I got here.”

East Ascension returns eight seniors from a team that won the District 6-5A title with a 10-5 record a year ago in the school’s first year returning to Class 5A. The Spartans made the postseason for the seventh straight season, losing at Ponchatoula, 5-4, in regionals to finish at 26-11 overall.

“Over here, we have a bunch of good baseball players that have a chance to succeed,” Grenfell said. “It is the same thing this year. I think we will win the district. Anytime we don’t, it is going to be a disappointment. That is the way this program has to be built. There has been a lot of people that have set that standard and our players realize that.

“In baseball every year, if you are going to be good, you have to be able to pitch and play defense. That is what we try to base our program around. If we get good hitting in that year, we are going to be pretty good but we have to be able to pitch and play defense. We work continuously on that.”

The Spartans lose five key components to their district championship. Four were lost to graduation in MVP pitcher Dane Amedee, infielders Dustin Wambsgans and Dustin Lambert and outfielder Brandon Smith, while senior centerfielder Matt Richard is likely out for the season following a knee injury sustained this past football season. 

“This year we have to find people to take their spots,” Grenfell said. “We might not have someone that has what they offered but we have a lot of good pitchers and hitters that can do a lot of good things and we think that is very positive.”

PITCHING STAFF – During a pre-season scrimmage, Grenfell said the Spartans used eight pitchers with a combined 13 2/3 innings of varsity experience. None were seniors and they almost equaled their experience that day with 10 innings on the mound.

“We have about 12 guys that we will run out there and if we can find five of those guys to take it over, we will be fine,” Grenfell said. “We have a bunch of guys who are equal and nobody has stepped in front yet.  We have a lot of guys who can do good things. We might have to pitch by committee throughout the course of the year.”

Grenfell is unsure who will be the Spartans go to guy in 2009. Senior right-hander Ethan Guidry was a 2007 first-team all-district selection but missed most of last year with an injury. Junior right-hander Alec Singletary returns to the staff with extensive experience. Senior right-hander Bradly Day and junior right-hander John DeArmond are also on the radar.

“We have a lot of arms that can throw for us,” Grenfell said. “We have a lot of guys competing.”

Others expected to see innings are sophomore right handers Logan Fife and Austin Todd and junior right-handers Jared Kleinpeter and Cortland Giardina.

LINEUP - East Ascension returns six players with extensive experience in their lineup for 2009. However, Grenfell feels hitting will be a weakness for the Spartans.

“We are going to struggle at the plate,” Grenfell said. “We don’t have a lot of experience at the plate. It is going to take us getting some games under our belt. We are going to have good team chemistry. We have a lot of guys that like each other and they like coming to practice. They like to work. They have worked around the facility and equally as hard on the field. That is why I think we are going to be pretty good.”

Senior catcher Adam Trahan returns after earning first-team all-district honors a year ago when he batted .357 and drove in 24 runs. Also experienced behind the plate will be Robinson and junior Austin Waguespack.

Troy Gautreau returns at first base for his senior season. Robinson and Guidry also have experience there as well as junior Landon Gauthier.

Senior Marcus Bailey, a four-year letterman, is back at second base after winning the district’s Gold Glove award last season and batting .424 with 24 RBIs to earn second-team all-district honors. Bailey may also play shortstop for the Spartans, while Giardina or junior Levin Fairchild are expected to fill in at either second base or shortstop. Kleinpeter is penciled in at third base with Singletary providing depth in the infield.

Junior Austin Todd is expected to take over in center field. Honorable mention selection Day returns in right and Robinsion is expected to fill in at left. Singletary and Waguespack provide depth in the outfield and Day and Trahan may also see time in center.

“(Richard) is pretty much done for the year,” Grenfell said. “(Day) is an integral part of what we are doing. We expect (Kleinpeter) to have a good year. He has a lot of potential. (Gautreau and Robinson) have been successful for us but we need them to be a little bit better and they understand that. It is now (Giardina and Fairchild’s) turn and they know where we want to be.”

SCHEDULE - The Spartans’ 2009 schedule includes five of the eight Class 5A state tournament participants for the second consecutive year, including state champion Barbe, runner-up Jesuit and quarterfinalists Mandeville, Ponchatoula and Dutchtown. The Spartans will also take on Class 4A champion Zachary and runner-up Shaw and Class 3A champion Parkview Baptist.

East Ascension will once again host the the Stephen Richardson Tournament and Jay Patterson Shootout and play in the St. Amant Invitation and Bayou State Prep Classic in Monroe.

“Bob Lemons set that standard at St. Amant in their early state championship years,” Grenfell said. “He played tough people and got beat up early but he always had his teams ready for district play and the playoffs. They were seasoned and ready to go when that time came along. A lot of teams have taken that motto and rolled with it. Why we should be any differen? They were successful with it. We are always learning in this game and one thing I learned is don’t be afraid to lose some games early if you can find some things out about your team.”

Grenfell continues to compare District 6-5A to MLB’s American League East. In addition to Dutchtown, Hahnville reached the regionals, while Destrehan was eliminated in the first round.

“We play the Red Sox one game, then the Yankees and the Devil Rays next,” Grenfell said. “We are the Blue Jays, so we are just trying to find our way in there. Bar none. It is never an easy day.”

OUTLOOK – Grenfell said the program built at East Ascension throughout the years will produce success as long as club is not plagued by injuries.

“The key is to keep people healthy which will give us a chance to be succesful,” Grenfell said. “We have to play hard everyday. If we stay healthy and come to play everyday, we always have a chance because this program is that good. I think our kids like being here and if they like being here that is half the battle.

“Our kids expect to make the playoffs every year they play. This school has won six straight district championships and they want to make it seven. They don’t want it to stop and will be very disappointed if it does. Our goal at the end of last year was to advance one more round into the state tournament and anything can happen once you get there but you have to get there first.”

East Ascension junior pitcher Alec Singletary is expected to see alot of time on the mound this season as well as in the field.