Jesse Cassard certainly knows the look of a championship team.
Cassard won three state titles while coaching at Zachary. With two weekends of tournament games remaining before the start of the District 4-5A schedule, Cassard believes his first Live Oak team can definitely develop into a threat come playoff time.
Just within the last week, Live Oak picked up victories against Barbe and Sulphur – perennial Class 5A state championship contenders. They've also dropped games to Assumption and Evangel.
“We have had some real quality wins and some bad losses,” Cassard said. “We lost some games we were not supposed to lose. The two games we lost last weekend, we had the opportunity to win, but we didn’t. You can learn more things in losses than wins.
“Still, this team is about like the other championship teams we had,” Cassard said. “They have a little edge in them. They know how to prepare, and they know how to compete. They have that toughness and that intensity level.”
Live Oak will be participating in the Gerard Oubre tournament in St. Charles Parish starting Thursday, weather permitting.
The Eagles (9-5) will be facing Hahnville, Destrehan, Northshore and Holy Cross. Cassard has a unique list of priorities as his team’s gets ready for another heavy weekend of action.
“The biggest thing is developing a No. 4 pitcher and more relief pitching,” he said. “Our offense has been doing a really good job and our defense makes the plays behind the pitcher. We’ve been trying to develop a deeper pitching staff. We need more pitching with eight games coming up in 10 days.”
Non-district games have as much meaning as league games in the power rating system used to determine teams for the baseball playoffs. That’s the reason Cassard is just as concerned about a fourth game in this weekend’s tournament as an April district game.
“Each loss matters in the power ratings, especially if you lose games to a team that is not going to have a lot of wins,” Cassard said. “You have to have four starters to play in 5A baseball because you are playing five games a week for the first four weeks. Once district begins, you just need three starters.”
Cassard is quite comfortable with his top three pitchers – senior Sal Palermo and sophomores Branson McCoy and Ethan Prescott. Palermo, a Louisiana College football signee, is the only experienced pitcher inherited by Cassard.
McCoy tossed a two-hit shutout in the victory against Barbe.
“We have to develop another starter and we need to get some relief pitching,” Cassard said. “We have tried eight different pitchers. Somebody has to step out and be that pitcher for the fourth game.”
Cassard is happy with the way the offense is developing. According to Cassard, the top two hitters have been sophomore first baseman Brant Smith and junior shortstop Rhett Rosevear. Smith is one of the candidates to be that fourth starter, while Rosevear has committed to Southeastern Louisiana.
It is apparent Cassard has some talented underclassmen on this team which bodes well for the future. However, Cassard also has four senior position players who have key roles – catcher Cody Guidry, third baseman Lane Hutchinson and outfielders Cam Dickerson and Collin Martin.
“We have some experience with these four guys,” Cassard said. “Guidry had never caught before. He was a middle infielder. He started working at catcher in the fall. He has been unbelievable behind the plate.
“We’ve got a good mix of old and young guys,” Cassard said. “They have been buying into our (hitting) approach. We need to keep growing as an offense. We just have to develop that fourth starter. We are a good team that hasn’t hit its stride yet. It’s coming.”
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