We’ve detailed the mind-boggling number of local athletes who played in the NFL during the 2021 season. One (Robert Rochell) of the 16 emerged a Super Bowl champion. As we put away the pigskin in favor of leather, there is plenty of reason to be excited about another batch of local prep products.
The opening weekend for college baseball featured the debut of one of the most-hyped freshmen in this area’s history, Byrd brothers joining forces in Ruston and the start of the sophomore season for a slugger at LSU.
Not surprisingly, the local depth on the diamond is profound. Exhibit A: Former Parkway star Amani Larry stole the show.
Larry hit safely in all three games for New Orleans in the Andre Dawson Classic and capped a dazzling opening weekend with a walk-off (run-rule) home run on Sunday as the Privateers rattled off victories against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Grambling and Alabama State.
“This weekend was amazing,” Larry told The Journal on Sunday. “I’d like to thank God for this opportunity. I’ve been working for this since I was a kid and all the long nights and trusting the process is starting to show. The walk-off was a great feeling but we know there’s more work to be put in with Kansas coming to town next weekend.”
The sophomore, who spent last season at East Central Community College, scored seven runs and collected five RBIs and two stolen bases over the weekend.
Larry wears No. 9 in honor of a family friend: Juan Pierre, a former Major Leaguer (14 seasons) and World Series champion (Florida Marlins, 2003). On Friday, the former high school star in Alexandria, a 2017 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee who posted a .295 career average and collected 614 stolen bases, tweeted:
“I’ve watched this kid grow up @alarry21 and proud of the young man he has become on and off the field!! I pray you have a great season continue to keep God 1st!! It’s your time!! #beastmode”
The success of 318ers extended to Huntsville, Texas.
Last year, Nebraska was one win from knocking Arkansas out of the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional. This weekend, former Byrd start Trent Touchet helped Sam Houston take three of four games from the Cornhuskers.
The first baseman, a senior, started all four games and pounded out six hits in 13 at-bats, including a ninth-inning home run in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader. Touchet scored four runs and added four RBIs against the Big Red this weekend.
And how about former Calvary Baptist quarterback Cade Hart, who has already made four appearances on the mound for LSU-Eunice? The sophomore has pitched 15 innings, allowed just a single earned run en route to a 2-0 record. He’s struck out 17 batters, allowed 10 hits and walked four batters.
This weekend provided several more standouts not mentioned. As the season progresses, the headlines will often include former Haughton star Peyton Stovall, whose career at Arkansas began with a 2-for-13 weekend. Stovall is the Preseason SEC Freshman of the Year and was a projected first-round pick in the 2021 draft before he pulled his name to play for the Hogs.
Many will have an eye on Hayden Travinski, a former standout at Airline. The LSU sophomore has a big-time bat and will look to garner more time at the plate and behind it this season.
In Ruston, freshman Slade Netterville joined brother Steele, a senior and fellow Byrd alum. Louisiana Tech’s sweep of Wichita State included a victory by Jonathan Fincher (another Byrd product) and sets up a showdown of 3-0 teams, the Bulldogs and LSU, at the Love Shack on Wednesday. Already a sellout, it will be one of the most-anticipated college baseball games in North Louisiana.
At every level, it’s clear the 2022 college baseball season promises to be another showcase for the former prep athletes who cut their teeth in Northwest Louisiana.