New year, new questions

Kyle Riviere
Southeastern signee Dwain Guice will head the St. Amant pitching staff. Photo by Tammy Gaudin.

The Stephen Richardson Memorial Tournament begins on Thursday, which means that the high-school baseball season is officially upon us.

As the temperatures begin to rise and the coming of spring approaches, the six Ascension Parish teams are ready to enter another exciting year that is filled with ambitious aspirations that include winning district titles and reaching the state tournament.

Many things have changed since the 2017 baseball season came to a close. This has created new and exciting storylines that we’ll have to watch out for throughout the year.

Keep an eye on East Ascension.

After being led by Britt Waguespack for the last three years, they’ll have a new face in the dugout this season with the hiring of Kade Keowen.

Keowen is a former player and assistant coach for LSU-Eunice.

He said that his team will play fast and aggressive.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keowen has a bit of a project in front of him as he replaces many all-district performers with young players making their first starts.

It’s hard to predict what East Ascension will do, because there will be so many new faces out there, guys we don’t know much about.

It will be interesting to see how those players evolve throughout the the year, as they get more games under their belts.

I’m looking forward to watching Ascension Christian this season. Will they take that next step and become serious state title contenders?

They’ve always been a good team on the fringe of doing special things. Well, they took that next step last year under first-year head coach Conrad Gayle.

The Lions surprised a lot of people by finishing as runner-up in District 6-1A, winning their first ever playoff game and reaching the state quarterfinals.

Now, they enter 2018 with seven of nine starters returning from that team. Mostly importantly, virtually their entire pitching staff is intact.

If junior pitcher Nic Montalbano is as good as he was last year, and he is complimented well by guys like Josh Diez and Mason Braud on the mound, watch out. They’re going to be very tough to beat.

In the past, Donaldsonville barely had enough players to field a team, but under first-year head coach Garrett Maum, an excitement that hasn’t been there in decades came back to the program.

The Tigers went 12-2. They had only won nine total games since 2010.

They now have a full roster, the players are excited, the players are confident. Now it’s time to see what they can do playing a full district schedule.

The Tigers will play more than 20 games this year, and with the new league schedule, they will be eligible for the postseason. Can they maintain the same level of focus and energy of last season now with double the games?

Blayne Enlow is a gigantic loss for St. Amant. I mean, the guy is with the Minnesota Twins organization as we speak.

It was pretty much a guarantee that the opposing team was going to score two runs or less each time he was on the mound.

Now that he’s gone, we’ll see how St. Amant’s two Southeastern signees Dwain Guice and Zane Zeppuhar will do in filling his shoes.

Guice will be the team’s ace after having a 1.57 ERA last season.

Zeppuhar will primarily play outfield and serve as the Gators’ best returning hitter, but he’ll also be depended upon to give them good innings from the mound, where he went 2-0 last season.

Speaking of pitching, just how good will Dutchtown be this season?

Out of the three 5A squads, they bring back the most arms from a team that was stingy in that department last season.

Austin Bankert returns as their ace after making first-team all-district as a first-year starter in 2017. Other pitchers like Frank Miller and Harrison Hutson both return.

Jack Merrifield also showed during the summer with Gauthier & Amedee that he’s also capable of throwing some smoke.

Ascension Catholic is the polar opposite. They must replace virtually their entire pitching staff in 2018.

In the past three years, Landon Clifton has been the best pitcher in the parish, not named Blayne Enlow. D.J. Giroir has been a wonderful second option.

Now, both are gone, along with a good third arm in Nick Bellina.

It will be very interesting to see what new arms emerge for the Bulldogs as they try to reach the state quarterfinals for the fifth straight season.