Summer of excellence
The Gauthier & Amedee Wombats were the boys of summer, and what a summer it was.
When the season was ending for most high-school baseball players throughout the state, it was just beginning for them.
They had virtually no time to kick back and relax and rest up after a long, competitive year. They were off to the next challenge, and that was American Legion baseball.
Second-year head coach Marty Luquet knew what he was doing. If you went to an Ascension high-school baseball game this season, there was a good chance you were going to see him in the stands scouting the talent.
Luquet got to see these guys play all year. He got to see their strengths and their weakness and how they performed under pressure.
It helped him put together a roster that was deep and talented. It helped him put together a batting order that hit .350 for the year. It helped him put together a pitching staff that had a collective ERA of 1.44.
This team was the perfect indicator of just how good the baseball players in Ascension Parish really are.
This isn't a huge metropolitan area like New Orleans. It's not as big as Baton Rouge or Shreveport.
It's quite remarkable that so much talent is found in an area this small, at least when compared to the cities listed above.
Still, sometimes the most talented teams don't always win. You can have all the talent in the world, but if that talent isn't managed correctly, the team will never reach its full potential.
Coach Luquet managed this 2018 team beautifully. And the players, well, you can look at their accolades from this summer and take a guess at how well they performed.
Being a smaller community with such close ties, it creates such great comradery between the players.
Many of them are current teammates. Many are former teammates from back in middle school or in Little League baseball. They all grew up so close together.
This meant there was little time needed to gel. They came together and bonded almost immediately. They quickly formed a brotherhood.
And once they did, they became nearly unstoppable. The Wombats lost just two games during the regular season. Twenty-one of their 27 wins came by at least five runs.
In the state tournament, they didn't just win; they won in style. In the championship game, they trounced Retif Oil, 9-1.
It gave the organization its first state title since 2013.
But things didn't always come easy for the Wombats. In the Mid-South Regional, they showed their tremendous heart and will to win.
They dropped the second game against Tupelo. It gave them zero margin for error. They had to beat every team they faced for the rest of the tournament.
That's exactly what they did.
Gauthier & Amedee closed out the event by winning four straight games, including a 1-0 victory over the Bryant Black Sox in the title game. It punched their ticket to the World Series for the first time in five years.
Yes, things ended bitterly in the semifinals, but what a ride it was.
The Wombats won their first three games of the tournament by one run. One of those victories came after a scintillating walk-off RBI bunt-single by Preston Thrash.
What would you expect from a team filled with players that helped lead their respective high-schools to deep playoff runs this season. They were money when it counted.
Both Dutchtown and St. Amant reached the state quarterfinals in 2017.
There usually isn't a big contingent of Ascension Catholic players on the squad. This year, they had both Mason Zeringue and William Dunn.
Those guys were fresh off of winning the Bulldogs a Division-IV state title. Both players were huge contributors for the Wombats. In fact, Zeringue finished with the best batting average on the team at .488.
All these guys just knew how to win, and they showed that every time they stepped on the field.
Sure, they came up a little short, but they can never lay their heads down over what they accomplished this year.
They were the best American Legion team in Louisiana. They were the best American Legion team in the Mid-South Region (Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas).
And as we saw last week, they were one of the four best American Legion teams in the country. That comes out to more than 3,000 ball clubs. Simply phenomenal.
Congrats to the Wombats on such an amazing accomplishment.