Arena: LSU, Tulane ace delivered at Lutcher in ‘13

Published 12:01 am Saturday, June 6, 2015

So how bout dem Bulldogs?

When you see the success Louisiana’s major college baseball programs are having, and then you realize two of those teams’ pitching staffs are anchored by pitchers from the same prep squad, with Jared Poche helping lead LSU and Corey Merrill doing so with Tulane.

It gives you an appreciation of just how good — and special — that Lutcher team was in 2013. Teams can ride one great pitcher to success, and a great pitcher paired with a pretty good one can fire through a postseason. But when you’ve got two high Division I pitchers, a lefty and a righty, and they’re guys who would go on to find immediate success at the collegiate level?

Well, you find yourself banking the first state title for your school in 38 years, as Lutcher did that season when it toppled St. Thomas More 4-0 behind a Poche one-hitter in the Class 4A final. The state baseball tournament encapsulated their pitching dominance that season, with the Bulldogs beating Tioga 4-1 in the semifinal behind a two-hit performance from Merrill. The two aces combined to strike out 20 batters over the two games.  Lutcher went 29-4 that season.

At the regional, we saw Merrill tame Lehigh in a 15-3 victory, and Poche stopped UNC-Wilmington 2-0.

Just like old times.

Local teams have just wrapped up their spring football work and hope springs eternal for all of our local teams. In St. John Parish alone, we have three teams coming off of state semifinal appearances — that’s unheard of, even in the River Region.

My heart sank, though, when I heard the news many feared would surface last week about St. James quarterback Lowell Narcisse: his ACL is torn, and he’ll miss the entire 2015 season.

Through his freshman and sophomore seasons, Narcisse has emerged as one of the very best quarterback prospects in the nation. Narcisse has completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 5,134 yards for 58 touchdowns and 22 interceptions over his two seasons of play. He also rushed for 2,039 yards and 30 touchdowns.

These numbers always floor me when I review them for a story. It was suggested to me last week that if one were to just look at his RUSHING totals over his freshman and sophomore seasons, one would think he’s a tailback with a potentially bright future at the next level.

You also get a handle on how good he is by how other coaches speak of him. The West St. John/St. James classic game to begin last season saw the Rams emerge victorious, but only after the Wildcats scored four times in a dizzying third quarter to erase what was a commanding Rams’ lead — “the Lowell Narcisse experience,” is how West St. John coach Robert Valdez described that quarter to me a few weeks ago in a spring practice conversation.  Riverside defeated St. James last season as well, but Bill Stubbs gushed about Narcisse’s ability with no prompting necessary — St. James’ 32 points in that game was the second highest total of the season against the Rebels.

St. James coach Dwain Jenkins called the loss of Narcisse an obviously big blow, noting his quarterback had established himself as one of the very best performers in the country. He’s right about that. I’ll say this as well: he’s also right to allow Narcisse to rehab this year without pressure to attempt to return to the field. This is a team that, after back-to-back trips to the 2A quarterfinals, has likely been dreaming of a state championship. Losing Narcisse diminishes those hopes greatly. But many have tried to come back too early from a serious injury and failed to ever return to their peak.

I commend coach Jenkins, Narcisse and those advising him for making the smart call to preserve a player who could go on to do great things on the national level, all while representing our region proudly.