Griffins face familiar opponent in opener

Peter Silas Pasqua
Dutchtown’s Dillon Day will be the first option to take the mound when the Griffins tangle Destrehan in the Class 5A quarterfinals Friday night in the state tournament. Day struckout six over six innings to pick up the win over Hahnville Monday in regional action.

For the second consecutive season, Dutchtown will open the Class 5A state tournament against a familiar opponent. Only this time, it will be the fifth meeting between the Griffins and Destrehan when they hit the field for the quarterfinal finale at 7:30 p.m. at Denham Springs’ A.B. Netterville Park.

“I think when you get the opportunity to play a team for the fifth time, you obviously don’t have to call on other people to ask for a scouting report,” Dutchtown head coach Chris Schexnaydre said. “You have a pretty good hand of what they like to do and they know exactly what you like to do. Bottom line, it is going to come down to the kids and the way they perform on the field. I think our guys are excited about the opportunity and ready to take on the challenge. They have played really well all year and I don’t expect anything less.”

No. 2 seed Dutchtown (30-5-2) will tangle seventh seeded Destrehan (21-11-1) the fifth time this season for the right to advance to the semifinals between the winner of No. 14 Byrd and No. 6 St. Paul’s scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday. The Class 5A final is set for 7 p.m. Saturday. No. 1 Northshore, No. 24 South Terrebonne, No. 21 Rummel and No. 4 Barbe remain on the opposite side of the bracket. Dutchtown won two of three over Destrehan during the regular season and a one-game playoff to determine District 6-5A’s outright champion.

“We are playing Destrehan and we played them many times but now it is in the state tournament,” Schexnaydre said. “We are not just going to have fans from Dutchtown and Destrehan there but we are going to have fans from all over and people who just want to come see high school baseball. It is going to be a great atmosphere. We should have a good crowd and we are just excited and ready to get back to Denham Springs.

“We have stressed to our kids all year, that every game we play is the most important game. We are at a point now, where this next one is the most important one. We just have to take it one game at a time right now. The good thing we have going this year is eight of the guys that are playing everyday for us on the field experienced the excitement of the state tournament last year. Hopefully that will help them relax a little more this year.”

Dutchtown advanced to the tournament by defeating No. 31 seed Assumption 11-0 and 18th seeded Hahnville, another District 6-5A rival, 8-0.

“At the beginning of the season, I said pitching and defense will win championships for you,” Schexnaydre said. “I think the consistency that we have had pitching and playing defense has been the key to our team’s success. Offensively, there have been games where we didn’t swing well. I am hoping that our bats come to life in this next game and who knows, if we get an opportunity to play three games this weekend, maybe our bats can carry us in all three games but I think definitely the key to any teams’ success at the end right now is going to be pitching and defense and I think our arms are going to be ready to go.”

Left-hander Dillon Day (10-1) picked up both playoff wins on the hill for the Griffins and will be the first choice to hit the mound Friday night.

“If Dillon Day is ready, Dillon Day is on the mound,” Schexnaydre said. “If he is not ready, then we will go from there and go with our next best option. We are going to go in and try to win the first game and if we have to use seven arms, we will use seven arms and the next day we will piece it together.”

Schexnaydre, a pitcher on St. Amant’s 1991 state championship team,  recalled the Gators using three pitchers in the first game of the tournament, the same three in the second game and two in the championship.

Dutchtown’s other options include starting left-handers Britt Gautreaux and Cameron Breeden, right-handed reliever Chris Boutwell and right-hander closer Jesse Buratt.

“I think we definitely have enough arms,” Schexnaydre said. “Obviously, there are some other teams with a lot of good arms. Destrehan probably has three of the top starting pitchers in our district. It is obviously going to be a challenge. It is going to come down to who steps up on those given nights.”

Right-hander Kurt McCune picked up Destrehan’s lone win over Dutchtown. Left-hander Joshua Rochelle and right-hander Tyree Hunter are the Wildcats’ other top arms.

Dutchtown was knocked out in the Class 5A quarterfinals last season by Catholic, a former District 3-5A rival, in Schexnaydre’s first year at the helm and are hoping this year’s trip lasts a little longer. The Griffins, also a quarterfinalist in 2006, will try to advance to the semifinals for the first time since winning the Class 4A state championship in 2004.

“Last year we got a little taste,” Schexnaydre said. “I think it hurt our kids when we loss and I really think they remember that day and take it personal. They were ready to get back to the tournament with a better goal in mind. Not just showing up and playing the game but going out there and trying to win a championship not only for our kids on this team but for our community and student body as well.”