Vandebilt wins Swampland title

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Proceed with caution in regard to college football’s playoff
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July 3, 2012

Immediately after Vandebilt’s 9-4 opening round playoff loss to South Terrebonne in late April, Terriers baseball coach Corey Sullivan said he was looking toward the future.

It’s easy to see why – if this summer is any indication, Vandebilt is ready to make a big-time baseball splash in 2013.

After finishing the Swampland season with an 11-1 record, Terrier-based Robichaux Ford won a pair of playoff games to take home the summer championship.

In the finals, Vandebilt scored a thrilling, 2-1 extra-innings win against Synergy Bank (E.D. White).

The Cardinals return several prominent players off last season’s Class 3A State Semifinals team.

The ability to defeat such an experienced team in a high stakes game has Sullivan hyped about the future.

“My biggest thing this summer was to get the kids to try and learn how to win the big game,” Sullivan said. “And I think I can safely say that we did that. And the other thing we focused on was trying to get our kids to do the little things right. Playing good defense and situational hitting and all of those small, but important baseball things – that’s what we focused on. And we accomplished our goals and are excited about what the future holds.”

The formula for Vandebilt’s summer success was simple – balance.

The Terriers proved capable of winning both high scoring games and also pitcher’s duels, exhibiting depth and balance up and down both their batting order and pitching rotation.

“Offensively, we were great when we needed to be and our pitching and defense was the same,” Sullivan said. “Really anything our kids were asked to do, they did it. We wanted to see how our guys would respond to being in a dogfight. We got our answer. This summer, we fought back. That was good to see.”

Offensively, Sullivan said his team reaped the benefits of a deep batting order.

“We averaged probably close to 10 hits per game,” the coach said.

Slugger Chase Hawthorne anchored Vandebilt’s offensive efforts, providing both an array of power and contact hitting.

Those qualities were on display in the Swampland championship game when he stroked three hits, including the game-winner – an RBI double that plated teammate Matt Bergeron.

“Chase is a big kid who can hit for power up at the top of our order,” Sullivan said. “But he has good command of the strike zone and really knows when to attack and when to be patient. He had just a really big summer for us.”

But Hawthorne’s efforts weren’t alone.

Sullivan said he entered the summer pleased with the top-half of his batting order.

As the Swampland season progressed, the coach added that Vandebilt was successful because of the production of the bottom of its order, which really turned an already good offense into a more potent attack.

“I liked my first five or six guys – Chase Hawthorne, Matt Bergeron, Payton Barrios, Blake Talbot, Jordan Bergeron and Josh Bergeron – they all can get the job done,” Sullivan said. “I was looking at my seven, eight and nine-hole hitters all summer and heck, they were just as productive as the top of the lineup guys. That was the difference.”

On the mound, Sullivan said he also has depth.

The coach lauded the efforts of gritty right-handed pitcher Jacob Walker, who worked all eight innings in the championship game against the Cardinals.

Sullivan said he would be relied upon next spring to get outs for the Terriers.

“I’ve used him a lot in relief and/or to close out games,” Sullivan. “But he pitched a lot as a starter this summer. And he just got a lot better as the summer went on. He has a real solid offspeed pitch to go with his improving fastball. We’re really excited about him.”

The coach said he also will rely upon Hawthorne, Matt Bergeron and Josh Bergeron in what he believes will be a deep rotation.

“In total, we have those four guys and we believe we can count on all of them to keep opponents out of rhythm,” Sullivan said. “And at this level, that’s big. You can never have too many pitchers.”

More important than all of the depth and baseball jargon, the coach said his team learned how to win games.

After losing many close games in the past few varsity seasons, Vandebilt shifted its luck this summer and turned those games into gritty wins.

If that continues, the Terriers could turn the 2013 season into a memorable one.

Sullivan can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

“We’ve got a lot of experience coming back and everyone’s going to have us tagged as the team to beat,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to always see everybody’s best pitcher and everybody’s going to try and step it up a notch to take us down. But that comes with the territory. We look forward to seeing how the kids deal with those expectations. We think they’ll handle it will and we are excited to see how this thing will play itself out.”

Vandebilt Catholic pitcher Chase Hawthorne fires a pitch during a game this season. Hawthorne was one of several pitchers Vandebilt relied on this summer to win the Swampland title.