THE POST-SIGNAL / Petry Photography
Members of the 2020 Notre Dame Pioneers’ baseball team include, seated from left, Austin Doucet, Karson Broussard, Max Veillon, Gabe Menard, Matt Bernard and Brayden Broussard; kneeling, Ben Broussard, Blake Smith, Alex Stevens, Will Vice, Luke Hoffpauir, Caleb Comeaux and Dominic Thibodeaux; standing, Gavin Corzine, Sebastian Roche, Hunter Hoffpauir, Parker Seilhan, Ben Robichaux and Ethan Menard. Missing from the photo were Tripp Mixon, Tyler Corzine, Evan LeBlanc and Andre Poirrier.
Season Review: Pios hold their own against the state’s elite
The Notre Dame Pios are not one to shy away from competition in any sport, but especially when it comes to baseball.
That was especially true during the Pios’ abbreviated 2020 season.
Coach Chris Steven’s squad went 7-4 against some of the stiffest competition in the state, mostly teams in a higher classification than themselves.
“We like competition and we will pretty much play anybody inside of a certain radius,” said Stevens. “We don’t do a lot of traveling anymore, mainly because you can go anywhere within 30 minutes of here and get top notch competition.”
The Pios did just that in late February and early March, earning victories over defending Class 2A state champion Kinder and Class 4A state runnerup Breaux Bridge. They also knocked off perennial power and Division II semifinalist St. Thomas More, split a doubleheader with defending Division IV state champion Ouachita Christian and logged a 2-1 victory over Class 5A Acadiana.
“You know, we were 7-4 and we were still No. 2 or 3 in the power ratings so that says a lot about our schedule,” said Stevens. “St. Thomas More, Breaux Bridge, Acadiana...those were some big wins. And our losses, all four of those were against some D-1 arms.”
Two of the Pios’ four losses were at the hands of a pair of UL-Lafayette signees in North Vermilion’s Hayden Durke and New Iberia Senior High’s Chipper Menard. Ouachita Christian’s Kade Woods (Alabama commit) and Teurlings’ Cale Comeaux (Mississippi State commit) were the other two pitchers to beat Notre Dame.
Pitching was also a strength for the Pios, who had a stable of arms at their disposal.
In all, nine pitchers toed the rubber over the course of the 11 games.
“The No. 1 thing for us, overall, is pitching,” said Stevens. “It doesn’t matter what we do, if we get one thing in, it’s going to be bullpens. That’s how important we think pitching is at the high school level.”
Ethan Menard logged the most innings, allowing five runs, two earned, on eight hits and seven walks. He struck out 13 in just over 17 innings.
Dominic Thibodeaux threw 16 innings, allowing nine runs, eight earned, on 16 hits. He struck out 15.
Gavin Corzine, the Pios’ lone senior pitcher, allowed 12 runs, six earned, and struck out 11 in just over 14 innings.
Will Vice was also a solid arm for Stevens. He went 2-0 on the season and tossed a shutout at Southside. Overall he allowed no runs on just six hits while striking out 11 in nine innings.
“Each of those guys were throwing the ball really well,” said Stevens of Menard, Thibodeaux, Corzine and Vice. “Multiple pitches, in the zone, limit the walks and our defense was playing pretty well. When you put all that together, you’ve got a shot to win.
“You know, our offense wasn’t where it needed to be, but we were able to manufacture some runs and our pitching and our defense kept us in a lot of games.”
In addition, Sebastian Roche, Matt Bernard, Alex Stevens, Caleb Comeaux and Hunter Hoffpauir each saw significant time on the mound.
“Matt Bernard closed it out against Ouachita Christian and Alex threw well in short spurts this year,” said Sevens. “Of course Gavin (Corzine) carried us this year but we have some underclassmen, including Caleb Comeaux, another lefty, that will see significantly more innings next year.”
Comeaux is one of three southpaws on the Pios’ deep staff, joining Thibodeaux and Vice as the other two pitchers from the left side.
“I have never had a lefty that has pitched for me in varsity and now I have three,” said Stevens. “Dom and Will threw really well. Whatever advantage you have as a lefty, if you can throw it over the plate you have a shot.”
Offensively, the Pios were led by junior second baseman Blake Smith, who hit for a .416 average with one double and four RBI.
“Blake has put in extra work with coach (Bradley) Ancelet and he was really starting to come around,” said Stevens of Smith, who went 4-for-4 in the Pios’ final game of the season. “And he’s a tremendous bunter with above average speed; so that really helps.
“Blake started for us as a sophomore and you usually see a pretty good leap from the sophomore to junior year and I think he was really starting to get it in the batters box.”
Ethand Menard logged a team-high 12 hits and hit for .353 clip with four doubles, one triple and six RBI.
“Ethan is that hardworking, middle of the order type of guy,” said Stevens. “He started for us last year as well, hitting in the heart of the lineup and he picked up right where he left off last year. He was swinging the bat as well as anybody.”
Comeaux and Parker Seilhan followed with seven and eight hits, respectively. Comeaux drove in two runs and Seilhan added two doubles and five RBI.
“Parker and Caleb, that’s two guys that are very athletic with a lot of speed,” said Stevens. “Caleb swung it from the left side and he was really swinging it well and playing a really good outfield for us.
“Parker had to miss a weekend for confirmation, but I felt like he was really starting to come around and hit his stride.”
Also collecting multiple hits for the Pios were Ben Broussard (7) Gabe Menard (6), Hunter Hoffpauir (5), Ben Robichaux (5), Corizne (2), Luke Hoffpauir (2) and Roche (1).
“Ben (Broussard) and Gabe also swung it real well and they each had a good on-base percentage,” said Stevens. “But like I said, we really hadn’t hit our stride offensively; but we were definitely showing signs of starting to come around.
“It’s usually about that time of year, you play a lot of games and all it takes is a couple of hits one game to get rolling. I think we had quite a few guys in our lineup that were getting ready to do that.”
Unfortunately, the season ended prematurely due to the coronavirus and closed out the careers of four Pios - seniors Ben Broussard, Gabe Menard, Ben Robichaux and Gavin Corzine.
“Tremendous four-year guys and great team leaders,” said Stevens of his senior class. “Ben Broussard kind of controlled the morale of the team and the chemistry was directly attributed to him and the seniors in that class. He wasn’t going to let you have a bad day.
“It didn’t matter if he was 4-for-4 or 0-for-4, he was still up and encouraging people. I think those seniors had that right chemistry. They didn’t all play every inning but they were that type of teammates.”