Bulldogs looking to make long playoff run in 2016
The Ascension Catholic Bulldogs have made it to the state quarterfinals for the past two seasons. This year, they want more.
The Bulldogs return many of their best players from a team that caught fire at the end of 2015, and came just one run short of punching their ticket to Sulphur. After their playoff exit, head coach Todd Landry was already looking forward to 2016.
"Getting over the hump, that will be our rally cry for next year. We want to take that next step; that's our goal moving forward," Landry said. "We'll bring back lots of quality players with the goal to make it past the quarterfinals and into the state tournament. We've now experienced the quarterfinals two years in a row. We want to take that next step."
It was a special season for Ascension Catholic in 2015, because of how hard they had to fight through a horrid start to the year.
They began the season in an 0-6 hole. Eventually, they improved to just 2-11.
The Bulldogs looked dead in the water, but that's when things drastically shifted. At the midway point, they built momentum and rattled off a 12-5 record to end the regular season.
That run allowed them to make the playoffs. In the first round, they beat Houma Christian in a thrilling 13-12 slugfest. In the second round, they upset third-seeded Hanson Memorial, 6-3.
They rode a five-game winning streak into the quarterfinals against sixth-seeded Central Catholic. The Bulldogs took the game into 10 innings, but they eventually fell in a 2-1 heartbreaker.
Now, a hungry Ascension Catholic bunch is back to try to make another run for the state championship.
"This year, we're returning lots of experience, and we're very talented on the mound," Landry said. "The Bulldogs should compete well. There are a few positions that will be competed to fill. Second base, left field and catcher positions have tough competitions for playing time."
Ascension Catholic did lose some of their brightest stars from 2015. James Martin and all-distric pitcher Falcon Mire will be big losses for the Bulldogs, but Coach Landry said that there are quite a few players ready to step up and fill their spots.
"Senior Burt Grissafe and juniors Dillon Vice and David Girior will compete behind the plate. Sophomore Nick Milano will compete for playing time at second, along with a few other players," Landry said. "The outfield still has a wide-open competition for playing time. It will be a good competition to see how the lineup shakes out with a lot of good competition to compete for some spots. Even some freshmen will push for playing time, so it will be a fun year."
Along with those competitions, the Bulldogs will bring back many established players that were key components in their quarterfinal run last year.
Collin Landry will be back as their best hitter. Landry was all-district and All-State last year. Two other all-district sluggers that return are Nick Bellina and Ross Ponville.
However, the Bulldogs will be at their best on the mound.
They bring back all-district and All-State pitcher Landon Clifton as their ace. All-district hurlers Cole Amedee and Ponville also return. Bellina will provide Ascension Catholic depth at pitcher.
"Our strength certainly starts on the mound behind Clifton," Landry said. "Our defense should be solid. The one area the Bulldogs need to improve to be in contention past the quarterfinal round will be at the plate."
Other players that Coach Landry expects to be huge contributors for the Bulldogs this season are Garrett Hales and Charlie Genalloni.
Ascension Catholic will officially begin their season on Feb. 22, when they step up in classification for a road game against Plaquemine.