Eighteen parish players make All-District 6-1A team
It was a memorable season for the parish’s two Division IV baseball teams as Ascension Christian won their first ever playoff game and Ascension Catholic reached the state tournament for the first time since 2005.
As a result, a total of 18 players from the two schools made the All-District 6-1A team. Nine players made it from each squad.
Ascension Catholic played a tremendously challenging schedule throughout the year that featured an array of upper-classification teams. Seven of their nine non-district losses were to these larger schools.
Once they did begin district play, the Bulldogs had their eyes on taking the crown for the second straight year, and they got off to a great start.
In the district opener, they crushed Ascension Christian, 12-0. However, two days later, they were shut out by the Lions, 2-0.
The loss was followed up by six straight district victories, setting up back-to-back matchups with St. John.
If they won both games, they would capture the district title outright. If they won one of the two, they would win a share of the championship, along with St. John and Ascension Christian.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they lost both games. The two defeats awarded the Eagles the district crown and forced Ascension Catholic to settle for third place.
Despite the disappointment, the Bulldogs were able to bounce back in the Division IV playoffs.
They won their first two playoff games by a combined margin of 17-3 to reach the state semifinals for the first time in over a decade.
Once in Sulphur, they took a 4-0 lead against top-seed Central Catholic, but the Eagles rallied to tie the game and send it to extra innings, where they won in 11.
In Ascension Catholic’s exciting run to Sulphur, Landon Clifton was once again a first-team all-district pitcher.
His fellow LSU-Eunice signee, Nick Bellina was a first-team selection from the infield.
Also making the all-district first team were senior third-baseman Ross Ponville and sophomore outfielder Mason Zeringue.
William Dunn was their final first-team selection as a utility player.
Senior D.J. Girior teamed up with Clifton to form one of the top one-two combos on the mound in District 6-1A for the past two years. As a result, he was a second-team selection.
Charlie Gianelloni made the second team from the infield, and Rodney Blanchard made it from the outfield. Both players will be returning in 2018.
Finally, senior Dylan Vice made the second team as a utility player.
Under first-year head coach Conrad Gayle, Ascension Christian went 20-9 during the regular season.
This included huge victories over Dunham, Episcopal, Ascension Catholic and St. John. The wins over Episcopal and St. John were the first in the program’s history.
They finished the season as runners-up in the district and won their first ever playoff game as they cruised by St. Frederick, 10-5.
In the quarterfinals, they led Central Catholic, 1-0, until the Eagles stormed back to take the victory.
Of the season, Gayle said, “I’m so proud of my guys for what we did in a short amount of time and for believing. We did a lot of great things, and I’m already excited about next year.”
Headlining the all-district first team for the Lions was sophomore pitcher Nic Montalbano—who was on the mound for Ascension Christian in their huge wins over Ascension Catholic, St. John and St. Frederick.
Joining him on the first team were infielder Mason Braud, outfielder Tyler Cambre and utility players Peyton Bahlinger and Landon Ortego. Bahlinger is one of only two senior starters the Lions will lose in 2018.
Making the second team for Ascension Christian were their No. 2 pitcher Josh Diez and utility players Jacob Antie and Sal Montalbano. Antie is the other senior the Lions will lose.
Finally, two Ascension Christian players made honorable mention in K’von Delone and Brennan Tramonte.