ESJ Legion baseball finds redemption against Destrehan

Published 12:03 am Saturday, June 15, 2019

RESERVE – There’s a lot of good things happening for the East St. John baseball team these days.

The Wildcats just concluded their most successful prep season in more than a decade, finishing 18-13 and earning a berth in the Class 5A playoffs. It was the team’s first playoff appearance since 2007, so not even a 3-0 loss to Monroe can tarnish it.

Now the Wildcats are using their summer to try to get even better.

For the second summer in a row, East St. John is playing American Legion baseball. This year they are sponsored by new local eatery, Jugy’s Grill in Reserve. And already the Jugy Team is serving up notice.

Jugy’s took a giant step forward this week with a stunning 9-7 victory over Destrehan-based ES&H on Wednesday on the road at Destrehan. The Wildcats trailed 7-4 after the sixth but rallied to score five runs in the top of the seventh. Pitcher Jakari Martin, who just capped a stellar freshman season at Rust College, then struck out the side to preserve the win.

“Yeah it was a good one,” Coach Wendell Henderson said. “I was really proud of the way they fought back.”

The win also was a bit of redemption for the Wildcats, who beat Destrehan last year but let a close game slip away this season thanks to a controversial interference call on the base paths.

“It was a very, very, very… well, I can’t say what I want to say, but it was a call that went against us,” Henderson said. “So, that’s what we talked about that it was a little bit of redemption. We were down 7-4 in the top of the seventh and I just said, ‘Hey. Let’s have some fun and see what happens.’”

Barry Ellis sparked the rally with a leadoff single. Rayvon Joseph reached on an error, then Kyron Joseph moved the runners with a fielder’s choice. Two runs scored on a double by Martin. Marcus Jackson drove in Martin with a center field single. Lonnie Ellis then doubled to tie the game. After a passed ball, Eric Breaux singled to score Ellis.

Henderson said he was thrilled for his players.

“As coaches, we just want to get better during the summer,” he said. “We want to have quality at bats. To me, that’s what I’m looking for. But the kids wanted to win.”

As always, Henderson struggled to put together a team. Some chose football. Others chose vacations or jobs.

“There’s always some kind of distractions,” he said. “What I want the summer to do is show the kids what they have to do to step up next year, and get them some experience. We’re always scratching for players. For real. It’s not like it used to be in St. John Parish when everybody wanted to play baseball. It’s somewhat disappointing. But, we’ve got to keep on grinding. We’re trying to get it back to where it used to be.”