The Denham Springs High baseball team is sitting at 8-7 with the season currently on hold while schools are closed in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While the Yellow Jackets’ record might not look great, it’s necessary to look a little deeper into the schedule, which hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk.
“We definitely haven’t ducked anybody,” DSHS coach Mark Carroll said. “And our kids have competed pretty good most of the time. We’ve had a couple of between-the-ear naps here and there, but overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with the competition. We’ve played some really, really good teams.”
DSHS came out of the gate with a 4-0 start, defeating Hahnville, Ponchatoula, Loreauville and West Ouachita before dropping a pair of games to Lafayette and St. Amant.
The Yellow Jackets followed that with a 2-2 effort in the Perfect Game High School Showdown at the Hoover Met Sports Complex in Hoover, Ala., opening with an 11-1 loss to Bob Jones (Ala.) HS in which DSHS was three-hit.
The Yellow Jackets followed with a 4-1 win over Benedictine Military School (Ga.) in which DSHS had just three hits and put together a three-run third inning to win the game. DSHS got a 3-2 win over Cullman (Ala.), putting together a two-run sixth inning after trailing 2-1 to get the win.
Denham closed the tournament with a 6-5 loss to Mountain View (Ga.) in which Mountain View scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“Our schedule is a really tough schedule, but you always want to play the best teams and beat the best teams,” DSHS outfielder/pitcher Gabe Spedale said. “That’s the way you want to do it. That’s how you can get better and learn. We were just really bonding … the whole team.”
That learning process continued for the Yellow Jackets in the East Ascension Tournament, where the team went 2-2, picking up a 14-8 win over Rummel, which was ranked No. 1 Class 5A, to open the tournament.
Brother Martin defeated DSHS 9-2 before Denham bounced back with a 7-1 win over East Ascension. DSHS closed with a 3-0 loss to Jesuit behind a three-hitter from Dalton Diez.
“We kind of got him back on track with how we expect him to pitch,” Carroll said, while noting the Catholic League schools came into the tournament with a combined 24-3 record.
“It was right at the point where you’re like, ‘all right, we’re about to start making some progress in some things,’” Carroll said. “You could see some things in the tournament during the weekend that … ‘we’re about to figure a couple of things out right here.’”
At the same time, Carroll said the circumstances of the weekend of March 13-14, after Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the statewide closure of schools, were likely on the minds of all players.
“We went through a couple different spectrums,” Carroll said. “We played really good at times in that tournament and we played really, really bad at times in that tournament – just the mental part. It was tough on the kids because nobody knew. If we could have told them, ‘Yeah, this is it, or no this isn’t it – definitely not.’ There’s just so much unknown in it.”
DSHS senior third baseman Noah Juan said circumstances surrounding the weekend were tough but said they also helped motivate the team.
“On the ride there to the game Friday on the bus, you could see all the seniors,” Juan said. “We were upset, had our heads down because we didn’t know if this was our last game or not. When we got there, Coach Carroll told us play this game like it’s your last, because we don’t know if it’s not. That’s what we did. We played to the best of our ability. We played hard. You saw the difference between our team just because of that. Everybody gave 100 percent in that because nobody wanted it to be the last game. We were just having fun. That’s all you can really do.”
For now, it’s a waiting game for the Yellow Jackets, who, like all high school athletes in the state, are waiting to see what happens with the remainder of their season.
“I’d love to get out on the field again for my senior year,” Spedale said. “No one ever wants to be cut up short at any time. Even if it’s cutting back the district games or just starting them early or whatever it can be. If I get back on that field one more time, that would be amazing.”
“It just all really hit us hard, some of us worse, but all you can do is just really keep a positive mindset and hope that we’re able to get back on the field again …” Spedale said.