The first few weeks of the 2018 season have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Denham Springs High. Now the Yellow Jackets would like to settle in for a little more consistent ride.
With 12 games in the rearview mirror and the grind of District 4-5A play a few weeks off on the horizon, DSHS (7-5) heads into a rigorous test this week when it heads to the Perfect Game High School Showdown in suburban Atlanta.
Coming off a 6-3 road win at Dutchtown, the Jackets take on Houston County (Ga.) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and then Saraland (Ala.) at 7 p.m. at Perfect Game Park at LakePoint. The games in the tournament will be livestream broadcast by the Bayou Sports Network.
Denham owns wins over perennial state powers Central, Byrd, St. Amant and the Griffins, but has dropped narrow losses against St. Paul’s and Lakeshore.
Some of that was expected with a roster that turned over quite a bit after a state quarterfinal playoff appearance last season. But with a roster populated by seniors, the growing pains are expected to translate into progress.
“We need to go out there and see if we can start getting better every day now,” Jackets’ coach Mark Carroll said. “We have a lot of guys who are getting a lot of experience at this level for the first time and this weekend is a good chance for them to get tested by some really good teams. We need to be ready to jump in because our district is going to be a war on wheels every game.”
This weekend will also be a chance for Carroll and his staff to solidify which pitchers they will count on when 4-5A play gets rolling.
Jase McDonald has emerged as the Jackets’ most consistent arm, with senior Dawson Albin providing a pleasant surprise. Cade Doughty is the most proven commodity on the staff and has saved four of Denham’s seven wins.
The wildcards are seniors Chris Courville, Cole Montgomery and Ty Pourciau. Courville has stumbled to an 0-3 start. Montgomery struggled with the strike zone at Dutchtown and didn’t make it out of the 1st inning. Pourciau has shown flashes of being effective out of the bullpen.
“We need to see who is ready to step it up a little more and this is a great place to test those guys,” Carroll said.
The Jackets have shown a knack for being more productive offensively, thanks largely to senior first baseman Hunter James. He has emerged as a reliable run producer in the cleanup spot between Doughty and Albin – the two veterans back with the most experience.
James has been in the program long enough to grasp what DSHS needs to glean from this weekend road trip.
“This is when we need to start focusing in on every pitch and every inning and play the way we have when we have beaten the good teams we have,” James said.
“We’ve been focused the way we need to be at times, but we have to be like that all the time.”
There is another element Carroll wants his team to take from the Georgia trip.
This is the first season most of the core group has been together on one team, which brings some natural growing pains. Getting away for a few days with a focus on the team is a way to tighten a bond among the players.
“As much as we want to go and play good baseball, this is a chance for these guys to establish some camaraderie and understand that every guy has to be into the game on every pitch, whether they’re in the game or in the dugout,” Carroll said. “This is a chance for us to grow that way.”
Four of the other District 4-5A teams head into weekend tournament play as well, highlighted by what may be the most competitive event in the state all spring.
- Central is the one exception. The Wildcats will head to Lake Charles for a three-game series against St. Louis, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday.
- Zachary welcomes in a who’s-who of Class 5A state powers for three days in the Landmark Bank/Jay Patterson Tournament. The Broncos will take on Destrehan at 4 p.m. Thursday and West Monroe at 7 p.m.; Sam Houston at 7 p.m. Friday; and Sulphur at 1 p.m. Saturday.
- Live Oak heads to Central Louisiana for four games at the Red River Classic, two on Friday, at Holy Savior Menard (4:15 p.m.) and at Tioga (8 p.m.); and two more on Saturday at Tioga vs. Pineville at 11 a.m. and Tioga again at 2 p.m.
- Walker heads to the Franklinton Tournament for games vs. Sumner at 4 p.m. Friday and the Demons at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Wildcats will face Pearl River at 10 a.m. Saturday and Pine at 2 p.m.
- Scotlandville is in action at the Plaquemine Tournament with games against St. Augustine (6:15 p.m. Friday), Port Allen (11 a.m. Saturday) and Church Academy (1:15 p.m.).