Comets still hungry after last year’s near miss

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / Febuary 24, 1999

LAPLACE – Playing in one of the toughest districts in Class 2A in the state, St. Charles Catholic baseball coach Frank Monica knows his teamhas to get off to a fast start this year.

“This district is so tough, you have to have a good March or you could be out of it by April,” Monica said.

Four teams in District 9-2A made the playoffs last year – St. CharlesCatholic, Ridgewood, Riverside and St. Martin’s. The Comets won thedistrict title with a 9-1 record and advanced to the Class 2A state finals where they lost to Pope John Paul II, 12-7, finishing the season at 23-9 overall.

Monica knows a return trip to the championship game in his second year as the Comets’ coach will not be easy. He realizes there are no guarantees inbaseball, pointing to a Teurlings Catholic team that went 25-1 last year but was upset in the first round of the playoffs.

“You have to be ready every day,” Monica said.

One advantage Monica has over last year at this point is his pitching staff.

A year ago, he was putting a relatively inexperienced staff on the mound to start the season. This year, three seniors – John Price, Courtney Bonuraand Brandon Laiche – will take the hill and all three have the experience of pitching in the playoffs a year ago.

Bonura completed the 1998 season with a 9-0 record in 11 starts, compiling a 3.16 earned run average and 69 strikeouts. Price went 5-2with a 3.03 ERA and 49 strikeouts. Laiche went 7-2 with 50 strikeouts. Monica also has a number of young pitchers he is trying to develop, including Dustin Braud, Jason Laporte, Toby Jacobs and Jason Wagues- pack, all of whom may see action coming out of the bullpen.

“We are going to have to find innings for them,” Monica said.

Monica is having to replace four starters in the lineup – John Clement at second, Brian Horvath at shortstop, Ty Monica in center and Jason Gonzales behind the plate. Clement batted over .400 last year while Horvath batted.306 with 12 stolen bases. Monica led off the lineup with a .350 averageand 18 stolen bases while Gonzales batted .357 with six home runs and 40runs batted in. The Comets are also waiting for a couple of players,including Bonura and Nick Monica, to get back from basketball.

Monica will lead off and play second with Jarrett Maurin batting second and playing center. Price, coming off an injury that caused him to miss thebasketball season, will bat third and play first. He is the team’s leadingreturning hitter, batting .480 with six home runs and 35 RBIs last year.Wayne Stein will hit cleanup and play left after hitting .375 with fourhome runs and 36 RBIs a year ago. Steven Faucheux is at third and will batfifth. Bonura at short, Matt Weber in right and Darrin Gaubert behind theplate will bat sixth through eighth.

The Comets got off a quick start Saturday in the St. Charles CatholicJamboree, defeating Hahnville in the opener. Price had a first-inning homerun and pitched two scoreless innings. Dustin Braud came in to pitch thefinal inning and got out of a bases-loaded jam.

St. Charles Catholic opened its season against Grace King Tuesday nightand will travel to the Bishop Sullivan tournament this weekend. TheComets’ home opener is March 16 against Bishop Sullivan. District 9-2Aplay begins March 23 at home against St. Martin’s.Monica said the season will come down to how the pitching staff and defense does.

“If we get production from the pitching staff and from the defense, we will be in the hunt,” Monica said. “Our first goal is to reach the playoffsand take it a game at a time from there.”

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