Tarpon baseball pushing through injury
About two weeks ago, the South Lafourche baseball team was the No. 1 team in the state in the Class 4A power rankings.
But a lot has happened to the Tarpons in the past two weeks, and now the team’s focus is clear – forget about the rankings and play some quality baseball in the stretch run of the season.
The Tarpons have struggled in the past few weeks, losing six out of eight games at press-time to drop to 10-8 on the season.
Injuries have plagued the team during the tough stretch, and the Tarpons are without Blake Ougel and Kasey Guidry – two of their top pitchers and hitters.
But coach Jacob Midyett said he was encouraged by the team’s weekend series split with Morgan City – something that he believes shows that the team is learning to adjust to the setbacks and move forward after the team’s recent slump.
“It’s been tough,” Midyett said. “Anytime you lose someone like Blake, it’s easy for the kids to fall into a lull, and for the majority of the week (that he was injured), we did. … Now with Kasey going down, too, it’s going to take 3-4 guys to step up. We’re not going to replace the innings that those two gave us with one or two guys. It’s going to take a committee of guys to step up and continue to give us a chance by throwing strikes and avoiding free passes.”
So far in the district season, the Tarpons pitchers have done exactly that.
In the district opener on Thursday, senior pitcher Caleb Matherne spun a gem, going deep into the game with the Tarpons holding a 4-1 lead.
But it didn’t hold up, and the Tigers scored runs in the sixth and seventh innings to force extra innings. Morgan City then won it in the eighth on a walk-off base hit with the bases loaded.
But on Friday, the Tarpons held their ground.
In that game, Kyle Estay started, tossing five innings of quality work, allowing three runs and six hits in the effort.
The Tarpons fell behind 3-2 in the top of the third, but then surged forward, scoring four runs in the third to go up 6-3, then seven more in the bottom of the sixth to secure a 13-3 mercy rule win.
Midyett said he was happy to see his team’s offense perform that well in a bounce-back game.
Usually, Ougel and Guidry are at the heart of the Tarpons order – two of the better hitters in District 7-4A.
Now, the team relies heavily on sophomore infielder Jelby Cheramie, catcher Jacob Danos, infielder Thomas LeBlanc and outfielders Austin Cantrelle and Matt Robert to make things happen.
Midyett said when he took over the Tarpons program in 2016, the team really struggled scoring runs – a program that he believes still rears its ugly head at times.
But by and large, they’ve been better with the bats, he said.
“We have our days offensively,” Midyett said. “I would say that offensively is still probably our weakest link, but we’ve continuously improved over the last two seasons, even though we’re still not where we want to be.”
The coach said the key to turning those struggles around in the second half of the season is simple: get more hits with runners in scoring position.
In Thursday’s loss, the Tarpons stranded countless runners, which arguably cost the team the game.
On Friday, they cashed in a lot of those opportunities, and the outcome was different.
“We’re working toward finding a little more consistency in that area,” Midyett said. “Overall, I like where we’re going and am confident that we’ll have guys step up when the time comes.”
That “time” is right now for the Tarpons, who are deep in district play.
The Tarpons split two games with Morgan City to start district, then played a make-up game on Monday afternoon after Saturday’s rubber game was washed out by rain.
This weekend, South Lafourche will host Vandebilt – many expert’s favorites to win the league.
The Terriers won their opening series against South Terrebonne, using dominant pitching and clutch hitting to power the victories.
Midyett said the team’s primary focus is in district and trying to push past all of the worthwhile challengers that the team will face along the way.
After that, the Tarpons will look at power rankings and playoffs and everything else that lies ahead.
“Every team worth a grain of salt will tell you that the goal is to win a state championship, and that is our goal, but we’re looking to get there by first winning our district,” Midyett said. “Since we’ve moved down to the new (Class 4A) district, South Lafourche has still not won a district title, and this group wants to be the first. To do that, we want to take at least two out of three in every series. If we do that, we feel like we’re in a good spot to do it.”
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