SPOTLIGHT: Biggest home game ever? Calvary hosts state semis tonight

SET FOR SEMIS: The Calvary Baptist Cavaliers baseball team has a ‘super cool’ opportunity to play a state semifinal game at home this evening, and has weathered many challenges to reach this point.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

For a school that’s won four baseball state championships, it might seem a little strange to hear that tonight’s LHSAA Division IV semifinal game might be the biggest ever played at Calvary’s home field.

But there’s an easy explanation for that: The Cavaliers have never played a home semifinal game before.

“Super cool,” is how head coach Jason Legg describes it.

In something of a tournament scheduling quirk, semifinal games in three of the Select divisions (II, III and IV) are being played at home sites. However, those winners will have very little time to celebrate; they’ll have to be in Hammond for the state finals on Saturday.

In previous years, the semifinals and finals were played at a predetermined location. In winning championships in 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2019, Calvary has played semifinal games in Alexandria, Monroe, Ruston and Sulphur.

Now you know why tonight’s 7 o’clock matchup with Covenant Christian (Houma) at Trademark Field is as big as it can get.

“I really don’t love it from the perspective of the logistics involved,” Legg said. “Whenever we’ve been before, the semifinals and finals were always at the same place. But I do love that we are going to host the game. It’s going to be an unbelievable crowd and atmosphere.”

Last weekend, the Cavaliers found themselves in quite a battle in the quarterfinals. Calvary traveled to Catholic-Pointe Coupee and got a masterful performance on the mound from Blaine Rodgers in Game 1. But Catholic turned the tables in Game 2 and things got interesting both on and off the field.

“It was one of the most uncomfortable situations our team has been in,” Legg said. “But pressure is a privilege for us. We have trained the entire year on being comfortable in the uncomfortable. I think we rose to the occasion. It was great to see everything come to fruition of what we’ve strived for all year.”

Part of that comes from the schedule Calvary has played, which Legg calls “the toughest in school history.” Try this on for size: the Cavs have played Sulphur (twice) and Dutchtown. Both are in the Class 5A semifinals and all three were one-run games.

They have played three Division II semifinalists, Parkview Baptist (twice) and St. Louis (twice) and University. They played the top seed in Class 5A (Barbe) and the No. 2 seed in Class 4A (Neville). They have played 12 Class 5A teams and are 6-6 in those games.

But battling adversity has been a constant for the Cavs this year with the death of outfielder Lane Mangum in a boating accident a year ago and season-ending injuries to two players (Hutch Grace, Drew Bickham) during the ’22 season.

“Our team has learned a lot about itself this year,” Legg said. “The grind we have been through has prepared us for what we have learned over the last two months. I knew what we had and the depth that we had. The job was to figure out what we could put in front of them that would be enough to prepare them for this moment. And these last two games are what that’s all about.”

Calvary is 24-15 while Covenant Christian comes in with a 24-13 record. The Lions have had to win a Game 3 in both of the previous playoff series, including an 8-7 win over Central Catholic in the deciding game.

Connor Matherne is the top pitcher for the Lions. The 6-foot-1 righthander is a Delgado JC commitment.

Legg said Rodgers (5-4) will get the start on the mound. “I don’t think that’s any kind of secret,” he said. “He’s pitched unbelievably well the last three games. He’s had a super senior year. Behind him is anybody and everybody.”

Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL


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