Legion play begins tonight

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 29, 2010



LAPLACE – After suffering an earlier than expected exit in the Class 2A state baseball playoffs, the St. Charles baseball program is set to get back on its horse today.

SCC-based Townsend Homes kicks off its American Legion season tonight with a Second District summer kickoff tournament at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in New Orleans. Townsend Homes will face Jesuit-based Retif Oil at 7:30 p.m. in the summer showcase.

For Townsend Homes, it’s a chance to reload after what was a tremendous regular season and disappointing finish. St. Charles captured the top seed in Class 2A and surged to the finish line, winning 17 of its last 18 games. But in the regional round, host DeQuincy tripped SCC up, denying a late comeback attempt and holding onto a 7-6 win.

“We’ve got a bitter taste in our mouths,” said St. Charles coach Paul Waguespack. “It just didn’t end how we thought it would.”

Townsend Homes now must find replacements for a number of departed seniors.

Returning standouts include leftfielder Brady Hitt (.382, six HR), lefthanded pitcher and centerfielder Jared Keating (.328 BA, 1.74 ERA) and catcher Shane McNeil (.358 BA, two HR), all seniors.

“We expect the three of them to lead us,” said Waguespack. “To lead us by example, in the right direction. We’re excited about what they bring.”

Keating and McNeil will be learning new positions this season, as Keating moves to centerfield to replace senior Grant Authement and McNeil slides into the catcher position vacated by senior Matt Bonnecarre.

McNeil, Waguespack believes, is more than capable.

“He started out with us as a catcher. We’ve moved him to the outfield, to second base, to shortstop last year. And by the end of the season, he was our best infielder,” said Waguespack. “Now, he’s back to catcher and not once, ever, has he complained or said, ‘Not me.’ He doesn’t care about numbers. He’s just the ultimate team guy.”

Among players expected to get a chance to step up and start are Jeffrey Hall and LaJaylin Smith in the outfield, and Donnie Savoie at second base.

Also a major key will be the pitching of Cody McMurray, who finished the regular season on a strong note and will be counted on to fill a high profile role in the Comets’ rotation behind Keating.

“He’ll have a chance to be one of the main guys now,” said Waguespack.

Townsend Homes will open official play on Monday against Destrehan-based Valero-St. Charles at 4:30 p.m. It kicks off a heavy summer schedule for Townsend, and all of the Second District.

The league has elected to open up the schedule during the regular season and will not split the district into two divisions — not until the playoffs, at least. That means all teams will face one another, and teams will play four times per week.

Once the regular season is over, the district will splinter off again into two divisions for the Second District tournament, in which the top two teams from each will advance to the regional tournament at Kirsch-Rooney.

The Second District tournament has created a nemesis for Townsend Homes out of Hahnville-based Otto Candies, which has knocked Townsend out of the tourney in each of the last three seasons.

“It’s been a number of years since we’ve played in that regional,” said Waguespack.

But, the coach is optimistic about what the summer will bring.

“I like what I’ve seen. (Assistant coach) Wayne (Stein) tells me he likes what he sees,” said Waguespack. “So far, we’ve accomplished what we’ve wanted to accomplish.”