It’s the 10th anniversary of a state championship season for the St. Mary’s baseball program, a fact that seems pertinent as the 2021 Tigers begin their postseason path later this week.
SMHS got its marching orders outlined Sunday when LHSAA playoff brackets were set, and to no surprise, the Tigers open the Division IV playoffs at home as the No. 4 seed in a 16-team field.
Thursday and Friday evenings at Cracker Brown Field in the east Natchitoches recreation complex, St. Mary’s will host St. Frederick’s from Monroe in a best-of-three series. Thursday’s opener begins at 6. Friday’s second game starts at 5, with a third game, if necessary, to follow about a half-hour later Friday night. Admission is $10 both days.
Coach Brooks McMinn’s Tigers are 26-5 with an impressive resume. They own wins over Class 4A St. Thomas More and Franklin Parish, a series win at another 4A toughie, Northwood of Shreveport, a triumph over 3A Westlake, and a win over 2A Many.
Against their district opposition, the Tigers roared. They were not only undefeated, but dominant, posting run-rule victories in every game.
The core of the St. Mary’s starting lineup is startingly young – six freshmen.
“The future is bright,” said McMinn, who as a standout on the 2008 SMHS team played with freshmen who went on to claim the 2011 state crown.
The current-day Tigers have two seniors: left fielder and pitcher Noah Heard, and the anchor of the team, LSU-Eunice signee Patrick Vienne, the ace pitcher and a first baseman who has clubbed nine homers while dominating on the bump.
“He’s been a great leader for us,” said McMinn. “With those younger guys, we needed somebody to step up, and he’s been absolutely awesome in every aspect.”
Ably assisting McMinn are Justin Fredieu, a mainstay of the 2011 state title team, and NSU freshman Tate Nelson, who played for the Tigers in the last four seasons.
McMinn embraces the playoff format sending teams into best-of-three series in the first two rounds.
“I like it. Over a three-game stretch, usually the stronger team should win the series. It gives somebody a better chance if they don’t have one stud pitcher,” he said. “But we happen to have that this year, so I wouldn’t mind a one-game playoff.”
Worth noting; the state semifinals and finals will be decided by one-game matchups.
But first things first. Friday night, McMinn hopes his Tigers are marching on to the quarterfinals and another series.
“In a 16-team bracket, everybody’s good. There’s not much difference at all,” he said.