Central’s baseball team has started off the 2019 season in a slow manner.
The Wildcats recently lost three games in the Trey Altick Tournament at West Monroe last weekend. Defeats against Ruston, Benton and the host Rebels dropped Central’s record to 3-5 before the Wildcats dropped a game to Catholic High and took two of three from St. Louis – improving to 5-7 heading into Tuesday’s game at East Ascension.
However, there has been no change in the final destination for the two-time defending Class 5A champion Wildcats.
“We have the same goal every year,” said coach Mike Forbes, who is in his ninth year as Central coach. “We want to play the last game on the last day of the season. That’s just the mindset we have.”
Forbes understands the results in late February and early March will not determine what occurs when a state champion is crowned in May at Sulphur. A team has to develop over the course of the season, so that it is ready to be the last team standing.
“You are going to go through a growing process,” Forbes said. “In the first year we won the state championship (2017), we got one-hit in the first game of the season. The same things have happened in our championship seasons. (Slow starts) are nothing new to us. We have to respond to the adversity.”
Forbes was not discouraged by what took place at West Monroe. He can see that Central is getting close to a breakthrough.
“We played three good teams (in West Monroe),” Forbes said. “We were in all of the games. The ball just didn’t bounce our way. In the game last week, we lost (8-4) to Holy Cross, we had an opportunity to win that one too.”
It should not be surprising that the Wildcats are going through a learning process.
Central returns just four players who had major roles on the 2018 team which beat Sulphur for the state title. That Wildcats squad was the No. 8 seed in the Class 5A tournament.
Central returns senior pitchers Drew Lasseigne and Dalton Aspholm, who also play other positions. The other two returning starters are senior second baseman Brant Chauvin and junior centerfielder Sam Kenerson. Lasseigne also catches and plays first base, while Aspholm sees time at third base.
“We lost our top two pitchers from last year, but a lot of pitchers always get opportunities early in the year,” Forbes said. “We always have new faces and we always have guys who have something to prove. We plan on having a lot of guys in the mix at different positions.”
Forbes has been happy with the early performances of seniors Eddie Pezant and Deonte Dotson. Then, three younger players were impressive in the first two weeks – sophomore outfielder Brody Knapps, sophomore pitcher/utility player Connor Cassels and freshman pitcher Jimmie Johnson.
“Pezant is coming off an injury from his junior year,” Forbes said. “He brings speed to our outfield. Dotson is a transfer from Scotlandville. He will probably be our designated hitter. Johnson held West Monroe down when we lost 2-1. Johnson will also play at third base.”
Forbes mentioned four other players who are playing key roles on this year’s team – shortstop Andrew Myrich, first baseman Nick Noble and catchers Gabe Patterson and Tyler Furr.
“Obviously, we have a lot of new faces,” Forbes said. “But we had a lot of new faces last year. We have the talent to get back (to the state tournament). That’s the goal and I am not saying we can’t do it. It’s difficult to do, but there is no reason why we can’t do it again.”
Developing into a state championship contender will take a few weeks. Forbes would like the Wildcats to round into form when they begin their 10-game District 4-5A schedule.
“If we do things the right way, good things will happen,” Forbes said. “We always tinker around early to get things figured out. We need to find out who we can trust in certain spots.
“Hopefully, it will not take us too much longer,” Forbes said. “Our goal is to figure things out by the start of district. We want to be playing good baseball when it means the most.”