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Wildcat baseball enters new era under Ourso

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / July 13, 1998

RESERVE – East St. John High School has enjoyed quite a run of success inrecent years. State championships in 1990 and 1992. Districtchampionships in 1983, 84, 86, 88, 90, 91 and 94-96. A number of alumniplaying on the professional level, from Gerald Williams to Thomas Pittman.

But it is also a program that has been hard on its coaches. The school hasgone through five baseball coaches in this decade alone.

Carey Ourso knows about both the success of the program and the pressure it entails, having seen the program from the outside as a resident of the area and from the opposing dugout. Ourso was recently hired as theWildcats’ head baseball coach, succeeding David Guillot who resigned after leading the team to a berth in the regional playoffs this past season.

And while others had told him he was crazy to take the job, he said the challenge is one thing that attracted him to the job.

“I saw a lot of great opportunities and the talent is here,” Ourso said.

“They were looking for someone to come here and make the changes needed and get the program where it need to be.” Ourso grew up in the Gramercy area and played two years of high school ball at St. Charles Catholic. Ourso also played tennis in high school andreceived a tennis scholarship to Nicholls State University where he played the sport for three years.

Ourso received his first coaching job while as a student at Nicholls State, coaching grammar school baseball at Chanel Interparochial School in Paulina. While he was there, the school won its first ever leaguechampionship. Ourso followed that success by coaching the RiversideAmerican Legion team to a third-place finish after the team had been picked to finish last in the 14-team league.

Ourso received his first high school coaching job at Central Catholic of Morgan City in 1989. He led Central Catholic to the Class A statesemifinals before moving to St. Stanislaus in Mississippi where hefinished second in district in consecutive seasons. Ourso returned toLouisiana in 1993 to coach Ascension Catholic. In his three seasons at theschool, the Bulldogs captured the state championship in 1993 and 1994 and lost in the semifinals in 1995.

Ourso has spent the last three seasons at Thibodaux High School, sharing the district title his first two years before winning it outright this past season with a 13-1 record. The team’s only lost in district play came inthe final game at, ironically, East St. John, when the Wildcats rallied inthe final inning for the victory.

Ourso said the fact that East St. John and St. John Parish have madestrides forward in some areas that Lafourche Parish has not was a factor in his decision to make the move as was the support the program was going to get from the administration.

“(East St. John principal) Debbie Schum and (athletic director) RonnieStephens committing to getting the baseball program to where it needs to be was a major factor,” Ourso said.

Ourso pointed out that there are four state championships between him and the school this decade and that one of his assistant coaches, Wayne Grenfil, reached the finals as head coach of Vermilion Catholic.

“Not many schools have that,” Ourso said.

Ourso said he does not understand it when people say he will be dealing with a different element at East St. John.”They are high school baseball players,” Ourso said. “I don’t see where theelement is different except that we have better talent here than some places.”Ourso said his baseball philosophy is that the team has to be solid defensively and pitching. Offensively, he said he is looking at a team thathas more weapons than most teams in the state and that it is going to take full advantage of those weapons. He said the batters next season aregoing to take a lot of pitches and work the pitch count. And while the teamis going to be patient at the plate, it is going to be very aggressive on the basepaths, taking advantage of the speed on the team.

Looking ahead to next year, Ourso said the team should be favored to win its district but that he wants to go further than that. He said when hespeaks to the team, its goals will be to win district, go to New Iberia (where the Class 5A state championship is held) and win while it is there.

“Every decision we are going to make as players and coaches are going to be based on those three things,” Ourso said.

But while winning is going to be important, Ourso said his number one priority is going to be the image of the program.

“We are going to change the ‘image’ the public says is not good,” Ourso said. “The guys are going to dress right. We are going to run on and off thefield whether we are up or down by 10-0. You will not be able to tell thescore by the way the players act. We are going to project an image thepublic will be able to be proud of.”Ourso said he is going to get the players involved in the community. Oursowill also be involved in the community, getting the public interested in the tea and said he has already seen changes in the way some people view the program.

“There are some people saying that now they can get it done,” Ourso said.

“There are some people pulling for us now that weren’t pulling for us before. It is exciting getting people believing again.”Ourso said he is going to put a team on the field that the public can be proud of on and off the diamond.

“We are looking to hold around 30 guys,” Ourso said of his plans for the junior varsity and varsity teams next season. “Those 30 will be the bestfor the program with talent and attitude in mind. We are here to build theprogram. That is what people want. That is what the school board and thepublic is looking for and what we are going to give them.”

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