Centenary to learn destination in DIII National Tournament today

JOURNAL STAFF

Centenary’s baseball team will find out its destination and opponents in the upcoming NCAA Division III Championships today when the selection show airs at 11 a.m. streamed live on NCAA.com.

The Diamond Gents (27-16) received an automatic bid after winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship last weekend. Centenary won the SCAC title for the first time since 2017 after finishing runner-up in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

The format for the NCAA Division III Tournament is 16 regionals with 60 total teams. There are 14 four-team regionals, two two-team best of five sites playing a double-elimination format from May 19-22.


Parkway, Byrd get positive vibes from spring game

By JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports

While it’s true that no team “wins” a spring game, Parkway head coach Coy Brotherton, who is entering year three as the head man in South Bossier, certainly likes where his football program is at after the Panthers met up with the Byrd Yellow Jackets at Preston Crownover Stadium on Friday evening. 

A big reason for his confidence is his quarterback, Ashton Martin, who transferred from Captain Shreve a year ago. 

Martin shook off some rust on the Panthers’ first 10-play series before throwing two touchdown passes on the second series. Trenton Lape was the first recipient on a 70-yard bomb. A few plays later, Martin found Jaylan White for a 39-yard touchdown. 

 “I think it just took him a few plays before he felt comfortable back there,” Brotherton said. “The adrenaline of real action probably got the best of him. He settled in and really did a good job for us in the second series. That was really the first time he has played in a year and a half.” 

 Martin broke his collarbone during last August’s Captain Shreve-Calvary scrimmage and had surgery the following day.  In January, he transferred to Parkway. 

Martin completed 13 of 25 passes for 232 yards. He also ran the ball twice for 24 yards. 

Byrd scored one touchdown, a pass from J.D. Gallman to Jackson Dufrene during the Jackets’ second 10-play series.

Neither team scored in the third 10-play series.

Defensively, Brotherton was impressed with Parkway linebackers S.J. Driggers and Amaray Brown.

“When we came into spring practice we had about seven or eight position battles,” Brotherton said. “We answered most of those questions.”

This leaves Parkway’s head man feeling better than he did a year ago going into summer.

“Honestly, last year we didn’t get it figured out until week three or four of the regular season,” Brotherton said. “We were still moving people around. We played about 40 different people with the first team on both sides during the spring game.”  

Parkway skill player Jaylan White is one player the Parkway offensive coaching staff has never had any questions about.

“We knew coming into spring that we wouldn’t get much time with him because of track, and that’s OK,” Brotherton said. “We know what he can do.”

White ran a 10.66 in the 100 meters and finished fifth in the LHSAA Class 5A State Outdoor Meet on May 7.

For Byrd, head coach Stacy Ballew and his staff have a couple of items on their summer “to do” list. On the offensive side, it involves finding a way to get Gallman, his backup quarterback, on the field when he is not under center.

“J.D. stood out all spring,” Ballew said. “In our offense you have to have two quarterbacks and two or three fullbacks. We have to find a way to get J.D. on the field.

“Spring football is the time to find out where you need to improve heading into the season,” Ballew said. “We know what we need to work on and areas we need to address. I really like the effort.”

 For the Panthers, the summer months will be broken down into three different segments. June will be a time Parkway will be competing in several 7-on-7 tournaments. After a week off in the first week in July, the Panthers will focus on special teams.


Weekend Sports Scoreboard

Friday

Pro Basketball (The Basketball League)

Shreveport Mavericks 140, Sugar Land Imperials 118

College Baseball

Grambling State 5, Texas Southern 2
Louisiana Tech 16, Western Kentucky 4
Northwestern State 14, New Orleans 11
South Alabama 12, ULM 4
Ole Miss at LSU

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

BPCC 5, Coastal Bend 4

C-USA Tournament at Denton, Texas

North Texas 11, Louisiana Tech 1
Western Kentucky 5, Louisiana Tech 1

Saturday

Pro Basketball (The Basketball League)

Shreveport Mavericks 109, Beaumont Panthers 101

College Baseball

New Orleans 11, Northwestern State 4
Louisiana Tech 7, Western Kentucky 2
Ole Miss 11, LSU 1
Texas Southern 24, Grambling State 4
South Alabama 3, ULM 1

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

BPCC 5, Navarro 2

High School Baseball

LHSAA Division IV Playoffs

Calvary 12, Ouachita Christian 4, 8 innings

Sunday

College Baseball

Texas Southern 16, Grambling State 8
Louisiana Tech 11, Western Kentucky 2
South Alabama 4, ULM 2
Ole Miss 8, LSU 5

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

San Jacinto 3, BPCC 1


Tech falls in C-USA Tournament; LSU headed to Arizona, BPCC still alive

FRIDAY THE 13TH:  A 12-game Conference USA win streak ended in resounding fashion Friday for Louisiana Tech and C-USA Coach of the Year Josh Taylor (at right, in beard) as the Techsters dropped two games and ended their season. 

JOURNAL STAFF

DENTON, Texas — There wasn’t much the Louisiana Tech softball team could do wrong over the last month of the season leading up to the Conference USA Tournament.

But on Friday, the regular-season C-USA champion Lady Techsters’ 12-game winning streak against conference foes came to an end, along with their hopes for a tournament title.

No. 1 seed Tech (39-20, 18-6 C-USA) dropped two Friday games in the double-elimination tournament, falling 11-1 in five innings to No. 2 seed North Texas followed by a 5-1 loss to No. 3 Western Kentucky. The Mean Green captured the tournament title with a 9-0 victory in five innings over the Lady Toppers in Saturday’s championship game, and will go into the NCAA Tournament.

“It was just a tough day (Friday),” said Tech head coach Josh Taylor, who was named the C-USA Coach of the Year in his first season. “We reverted back to some old habits. We looked tight. We played two really good teams who both played really well so I don’t want to take anything away from either of them. But we definitely didn’t play like we had been the last month of the season.”

In game one, North Texas scored three runs in the first, second, and third innings and two more in the fifth. Tech’s lone run came in the bottom of the seventh inning when Amanda Gonzalez hit her eighth home run of the season against Mean Green starter Skylar Savage.

In the nightcap against the Lady Toppers, Tech’s Sierra Sacco broke the single-season hits record when her first-inning leadoff single gave her 82 hits (the record was held by former Techster Amberly Waits).

“I couldn’t be prouder of this group and what they have accomplished,” said Taylor. “No one thought we would win 39 games. No one thought we would compete for a league title, much less win one. This team will be remembered for getting Louisiana Tech softball back to where they need to be. It’s been a special group and a special year.”

LSU in Tempe Regional – The Tigers (34-21) will be making their 16th consecutive appearance (and 23rd overall) in the NCAA Softball Tournament when they take on San Diego State (37-14) in the first game of the Tempe (Arizona) Regional at 6 p.m. Friday.

Pac-12 champion and No. 8 seed Arizona State (39-9) was awarded the host site and will meet Cal State Fullerton (36-20) in Friday night’s second game. LSU will play either ASU or Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

While they fell in the first round of last week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament, there was some good news for the Lady Tigers when the All-SEC Honors were announced by the league office Friday. Junior Ali Kilponen was named to the All-SEC First Team, marking the first time since 2018 (Allie Walljasper) that an LSU pitcher received the honor. Making the All-SEC Second Team for LSU were junior Georgia Clark and sophomores Ciara Briggs, Danieca Coffey, and Taylor Pleasants. Briggs was also named to the All-Defensive Team.

BPCC in Region XIV elimination bracket – After winning their first two games in the NJCAA Region XIV Tournament on Friday and Saturday, the Lady Cavaliers fell to San Jacinto Community College 3-1 on Sunday afternoon.

With its first loss in the double-elimination tournament, BPCC will now face the winner of the Paris/Angelina game at noon today. The Lady Cavs defeated Coastal Bend 5-4 in the first round Friday and recorded a 5-2 victory over Navarro on Saturday.

Primrose Aholelei went five innings for BPCC, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out eight in Sunday’s loss to San Jacinto. Tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning, San Jacinto scored two runs on Kaurie Winters’ RBI single.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech


TODAY’S SCHEDULE: LSUS hosts NAIA National Tournament Shreveport Bracket

Monday

College Baseball

NAIA National Tournament (at LSUS)

Loyola (La.) vs. Fisher (Mass.), 11 a.m.
USAO (Okla.) vs. Lyon (Ark.), 2:30 p.m.
LSUS vs. Loyola-Fisher winner, 6 p.m.

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament (at San Jacinto)

BPCC vs. Paris-Tyler winner, noon
BPCC vs. San Jacinto, 3 p.m., if BPCC wins at noon

Tuesday

College Baseball

Northwestern State at LSU, 6:30 p.m.

NAIA National Tournament

Game 4, Loyola-Fisher loser vs. USAO-Lyon loser, 11 a.m.
Game 5, USAO-Lyon winner vs. LSUS – (Loyola-Fisher winner) winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 6, TBD, 6 p.m.

Note: The above schedule is subject to cancellations or reschedule


SPOTLIGHT: This lefty is all right

NEVER LOSE FOCUS: At one time the biggest player on the First Baptist Shreveport Patriots machine pitch team, Jonathan Fincher has become a bigger reason for Tech’s baseball success.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

He’s studying to be a surgeon, so Louisiana Tech scholar-athlete Jonathan Fincher will be in a life-or-death situation or two one day.

Baseball’s far from that. Even though, sometimes …

“In that moment of competition,” said Louisiana Tech’s junior lefthander, a nervous smile on his face, “it sure feels like life and death.”

Like for instance a couple of Sundays ago at Old Dominion when Fincher left the mound with two on and one out, in the deciding game of a three-game series, and his buddy Landon Tomkins came in and got a 6-4-3 double play on a 2-1 pitch to end the threat in a game Tech would win, 8-4, to move into second place in the Conference USA race. Biggest play of the game.

“I jumped about 18 feet high,” Fincher said, now all smiles in the players’ lounge of the Love Shack before a practice for this weekend’s crucial three-game set in Ruston against Western Kentucky. “I’m a big guy (6-3, 240), so 18 feet, that’s pretty high.”

Baseball life.

And then there’s baseball death, like Tech dropping two of three last weekend at home against Florida Atlantic to fall into a tie for third, a game behind UTSA, three behind league-leading Southern Miss, a team that took 2 of 3 from the visiting Bulldogs at the start of April.

And there’s Fincher, who, if you didn’t know him, might have been figured for life support a month ago.

Last spring he was first-team All C-USA. Led the Bulldog staff in strikeouts (85, walked only 23), innings pitched (100.1) and lowest opposing batting average against him (.219). Finished 8-3 for the West Division champs on a 42-20 Tech team that hosted an NCAA Regional, a first in program history.

But last month, Fincher found himself in the bullpen. His fastball wasn’t Fincher-fast and was finding too much of the plate, and his home runs allowed count was suspiciously high (six last year, nine in a little more than half as many innings this spring).

Teammate, close friend and lefty Cade Gibson was “putting together better innings,” Fincher said. The two swapped spots. Fincher’s heart didn’t even skip a beat.

“It was the logical move,” Fincher said. “Whatever the team needs. That’s the same attitude I’ve always had.”

He and pitching coach Cooper Fouts fixed a couple of mechanical things that have allowed him better command, and he’s gotten some velocity back by cutting his between-appearances workload.

Could be what the doctor ordered. If it’s not, it won’t be from lack of confidence or preparation. He’s book smart — Thursday he and teammate and Byrd High bestie Steele Netterville were named 2021-22 Baseball First Team Academic All-District — but he’s baseball smart too.

“Being able to deal with the pressure a situation puts on you,” he said, “whether it’s trying to save a person’s life or get a ground ball to second base … I think that’s the main thing baseball teaches you in life, to build that confidence in yourself to perform whatever task you’re trying to do at that point and time.

“Move on, pitch-to-pitch. Execute your plan. Lock in. Keep attacking.”

Those calling cards of focus and attack are the same reasons he feels no one should sleep on this year’s Bulldogs (33-17, 15-9), scheduled to play at 6 tonight, 2 Saturday (Senior Day) and 1 Sunday against WKU (17-30, 7-17).

“We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through the tornado and playing without a stadium and dealing with COVID,” Fincher said, “a bunch of grinders who go to work and don’t really care what the outside has to say about what the team is doing at that moment. We’re going to lock shields and rely on each other.

“We’ve got a great core group,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to the park every day, just to hang out. At this point, if you’re not having fun, you’re probably in the wrong place.”

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech


A time to appreciate, and times to anticipate

Saturday night in Sulphur – or maybe it will be Hammond – someone is going to catch a pop up or make a throw to first or get a strikeout. Or maybe it’ll be a walk-off hit, but it will happen.

The time, the place and the method really doesn’t matter. But when the last out is made (or last run is scored) in either the Class 5A state baseball finals (Sulphur) or the Division I finals (Hammond), that’s it. We’ll be done.

Another high school sports calendar will have run its course.

Seniors will graduate all across the state and those moments they have been pointing toward all their athletic life will officially be a memory. Another class steps up; another set of memories waiting to be made.

It starts in the heat of the late summer and ends in the heat of the late spring. It takes us for a ride throughout the calendar with the unexpected happening more often that you can count.

The stories within those nine months are what make high school sports so special. It’s not about the superstar who leaves for college early to get a jump on his next-level career. Those are the headliners and they certainly have their place.

Instead, focus on all the things that happen over the course of 40 weeks. Hopes. Dreams. Pain. Tears.

Life.

There’s a Class C basketball team in a town you’ve never heard of that just won its biggest game against the rival it could never beat. There’s a region, devastated by a natural disaster, that rallied just to field a high school football team because it was what they needed to do to feel normal.

There’s a girl who never played volleyball before and found a place on the team that did more for her self-esteem than anybody ever thought.

There’s the swimmer who missed being a state champion by .01 seconds or the softball player who took a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the game.

And there’s the kid who sat the bench at the Class 5A school, just waiting for his chance because his senior year was the only shot he was ever going to get. The kid who just wanted to play, even if it was a deep snapper or a courtesy runner.

They’ll hold trophies at the end of every sport’s season and everyone will smile as celebratory pictures and selfies are taken. Just a few feet away are the defeated opponents, who just knew it wasn’t going to be that way. It seems like that crushing pain will never go away. And then it does.

If you said high school sports are not like it used to be, you would be correct. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Athletic competition was never meant to be stagnant. We are always trying to run faster, throw harder and kick farther. That’s just athletics.

You have to look down into the core of high school athletics to see what’s going on now is what has always gone on. These are probably the greatest times and the greatest friends you’ll ever have. Tucked inside that calendar will be good memories and bad memories, but they will all be special.

And the best part of all? When it’s over, there’s another train coming.


Killer Bs highlight Saints, Cowboys home schedules

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

 Tom Brady, Joe Burrow and the reigning Super Bowl champions will face both the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys this fall.

The full NFL schedules were released Thursday night. Burrow and his Cincinnati Bengals, and Tampa Bay’s Brady, will visit both the Caesar’s Superdome and AT&T Stadium early in the season.

In Week 2, the Cowboys will host Cincinnati for Sept. 18 affair. Burrow makes his return to the Superdome, site of his National Championship victory with LSU in 2020, in Week 6 – Oct. 16 at noon.

The season-openers are doozies for both squads. For the second year in a row, the Cowboys kick off the season in primetime against Brady and the Buccaneers. This time it’s on a Sunday night (Sept. 11) in the Metroplex.

The Saints open with Atlanta. Enough said. 

The Falcons will host the noon affair on Sept. 11.

New Orleans travels to Tampa Bay in Week 2 and will host Brady and the Buccaneers on Monday night in Week 13 (Dec. 5). The Saints host one other Monday Night Football matchup – Week 9 (Nov. 7) against Baltimore.

The Saints play just one other primetime game, Week 7 at Arizona, but will travel to London to play Minnesota in Week 4 (Oct. 2). The defending champion Los Angeles Rams visit the Big Easy on Nov. 20.

New Orleans’ longest homestand is three games (Weeks 4-6). The Saints will spend Christmas Eve in Cleveland in Week 16 and finish in the Dome against Carolina on Jan. 8.

The Cowboys play five primetime games, including three Sunday night games. Dallas plays five home games before its Week 9 bye. One of the early road games is a trip to SoFi Stadium to play the Rams in Week 5 (Oct. 9).

Dallas travels to Lambeau Field (Nov. 13) following its bye week. It will be Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy’s first trip to Green Bay since he left as the Packers head coach. 

The annual Thanksgiving game features an NFC East showdown with the New York Giants.

The Cowboys’ only Monday night affair comes in Week 3 (Sept. 26) at the Giants.

New Orleans Saints 2022 schedule

 Sept. 11, at Atlanta (noon, FOX)

Sept. 18, Tampa Bay (noon, FOX)

Sept. 25, at Carolina (noon, FOX)

Oct. 2, Minnesota (at London, 8:30 a.m., NFL Network)

Oct. 9, Seattle (noon, FOX)

Oct. 16, Cincinnati (noon, CBS)

Oct. 20, at Arizona (7:15 p.m., Prime Video)

Oct. 30, Las Vegas (noon, CBS)

Nov. 7, Baltimore (7:15 PM)

Nov. 13, at Pittsburgh (noon, FOX)

Nov. 20, Los Angeles Rams (noon, FOX)

Nov. 27, at San Francisco (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Dec. 5, at Tampa Bay (7:15 p.m.)

BYE, Week 14

Dec. 18, Atlanta (TBD)

Dec. 24, at Cleveland (noon, CBS)

Jan 1, at Philadelphia (noon, FOX)

Jan. 8, Carolina (TBD)

Dallas Cowboys 2022 schedule

Sept. 11, Tampa Bay (7:20 p.m., NBC)

Sept. 18, Cincinnati (3:25 p.m., CBS)

Sept. 26, at New York Giants (7:15 p.m.)

Oct. 2, Washington (noon, FOX)

Oct. 9, at Los Angeles Rams (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Oct. 16, at Philadelphia (7:20 p.m., NBC)

Oct. 23, Detroit (noon, CBS)

Oct. 30, Chicago (noon, FOX)

BYE, Week 9

Nov. 13, at Green Bay (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Nov. 20, at Minnesota (3:25 p.m., CBS)

Nov. 24, New York Giants (3:30, FOX)

Dec. 4, Indianapolis (7:20, NBC)

Dec. 11, Houston (noon, FOX)

Dec. 18, at Jacksonville (noon, FOX)

Dec. 24, Philadelphia (3:25 p.m., FOX)

Dec. 29, at Tennessee (7:15 p.m., Prime Video)

Jan. 8, at Washington (TBD)

Photo courtesy National Football League


Thursday’s Sports Scoreboard

Thursday

College Baseball

New Orleans 6, Northwestern State 4

College Softball

SLC Tournament in Hammond

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4, Northwestern St. 3

C-USA Tournament at Denton, Texas

La. Tech 16, Marshall 8

High School Baseball

LHSAA Division IV Playoffs

Calvary 10, Covenant Christian 9


Techsters slug past Marshall into C-USA semifinal round; NSU eliminated

MAJOR IMPACT: Sierra Sacco scored four times, stole three bases and went 3-for-3 Thursday to help Louisiana Tech run-rule Marshall in the Conference USA softball tournament at Denton, Texas.

JOURNAL SPORTS

DENTON, Texas – Heading into his team’s opening game in the Conference USA Softball Tournament, Louisiana Tech head coach Josh Taylor wanted to put pressure on the 4th seeded Marshall Thundering Herd with the running game.

Goal achieved.

Tech recorded a season-high seven steals, belted three home runs and tied its season-high in runs in handing Marshall a 16-8 loss at Lovelace Stadium on a scorching Thursday afternoon in Texas.

C-USA regular season champion Tech (39-18) advanced to take on 2nd seeded North Texas at noon today. The winner will advance to Saturday’s championship game while the loser will play again at 5 p.m. in an elimination contest.

The Techsters chased Conference USA Pitcher of the Year Sidney Nester after two innings.

After Marshall took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a pair of solo home runs, the Lady Techsters responded with a four spot in the bottom of the frame. A two-run single by Brooke Diaz and a two-run double by Jordyn Manning gave Tech a 4-2 lead.

The Thundering Herd tied it at 4-4 with two runs on a two-out error by the Lady Techsters in the top of the second. Tech plated three runs in the bottom half on sac flies by Caroline Easom and Lindsay Edwards and an RBI single by Madie Green.

The Lady Techsters turned to the long ball in the fourth inning. Green singled and one out later, Katelin Cooper launched a towering two-run shot over the right field fence.  After the second out, Kylie Neel crushed a no doubter to centerfield for an 11-4 advantage.

Marshall answered in the fifth inning, plating four runs on four hits to close the deficit to 11-8.

Tech used a five-spot in the fifth to end the game. A leadoff home run by Green, her 13th of the year, made it 12-8. A two-run single by Sierra Sacco, her third hit of the day, pushed the lead to 14-8. Amanda Gonzalez followed with a two-run double to right centerfield, scoring two runs to end the game.

Sacco (3-3, 4 runs, 3 SB, 2 RBI), Gonzalez (2-3, 2 runs, 3 RBI), Green (3-3, 3 runs, 2 RBI), and Neal (2-3, HR, RBI) all recorded multi-hit games.

TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI 4, NORTHWESTERN STATE 3: Two first-inning errors allowing three runs by the No. 3-seeded Islanders coupled with nine runners left on base were the mistakes that cost the No. 4 Lady Demons (29-22), who were eliminated from the Southland Conference Tournament in Hammond with a second straight one-run loss.

Laney Roos doubled and scored in the first inning, then homered, but NSU again failed to cash in opportunities. The Lady Demons had baserunners in every inning of the game, and multiple base runners in four of the seven frames – including leaving the bases loaded in the seventh.

Northwestern drew within a run in its last chance when Keely DuBois hit a fly ball deep enough to left to bring Roos in from third. After walks to both Makenzie Chaffin and Alexis Perry, the Lady Demons had the go-ahead run at second with one out. But the Islanders (25-26) escaped with a grounder and a popup.

Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech


Mavericks make two Texas stops as stretch run begins

JOURNAL SPORTS

After thrashing the Dallas Skyline on Tuesday night in a key battle of teams near the top of The Basketball League Central Division standings, the Shreveport Mavericks will head to southeast Texas for two games this weekend.

Shreveport will take on the Sugar Land Imperials tonight in Alvin, Texas, at the Upside SportsPlex, and visit the Beaumont Panthers Saturday. Six games remain in the regular season, and only one is at home for the SMavs.

The Mavericks (14-3) are riding a five-game winning streak and trail only Enid (15-3) in the Central Division race.

The Mavericks shot nearly 60 percent Tuesday night in the Gold Dome on Centenary’s campus as they plastered the Skyline 138-117.

All-Star guard Paul Parks paces the Shreveport offense with 24.8 points per game. He leads the team in steals and is second in the league with 2.7 per game. He also leads the team and tops the league in 3-pointers made with 6.6 per game.

Paul Harrison is next in scoring with 18.9 points per game and leads the team in rebounding, averaging 8.6. Point guard PJ Meyers tops the team in assists (6.7 pg) and stands sixth in the league.

The Imperials (8-7) are led by John Mouton, one of the TBL’s top scorers with a 28-point average. The Panthers (6-9) rely on Lyle Hexom with 21.2 points per game.

TBL Central Standings

1. Enid Outlaws 15-3

2. Shreveport Mavericks 14-3

3. Potawatomi Fire 14-4

4. Dallas Skyline 12-4

5. Sugar Land Imperials 8-7

6. Beaumont Panthers 6-9

7. Rockwall 7ers 4-13

8. Little Rock Lightning 1-16

9. Waco Royals 1-16


Blue Goose Soccer Club takes US League 2 debut, home again next Saturday

SOLID OPENER: The local Blue Goose semi-pro soccer team had a successful debut Wednesday.

By DAVID ERSOFF, Journal Sports

After scoring season-opening 3-0 win, the semi-pro LA Blue Goose Soccer Club is home again next Saturday, May 21, against Texas United at Mayo Field on the Centenary College campus.

Blue Goose won its debut game at home Wednesday night over the Little Rock Rangers. Goals were scored by Juri Schlingmann, Adam Morris and Guilherme Bittencourt, with assists from Gerardo Martinez and Nicolas Theberge.

The game day rosters in this league are limited to 18 players, with the professional substitution rule – when a player is substituted out of the game, he cannot return.

It was a hot and humid evening, with no breeze to speak of for any type of relief. It was even more sticky in the stands as the 300-plus fans cheered on their newest hometown team. The heat was a factor for both teams, along with a short run-up to the opener for Blue Goose.

“Since so many of our players attend college, we were only able to have three days to prepare for this first game. Our fitness was the area in which we suffered the most,” assistant coach Rafa Muniz said. “But we had a solid game plan and the players were able to gel quickly. (It was) a solid win against one of the better teams in our division.”

Both teams began a little reserved, as they were getting themselves used to the conditions and the atmosphere. The Rangers took a direct approach looking to play the long ball to their fast forward. The Blue Goose defense was more than up for the early challenges.

In the 15th minute, Blue Goose defender Martinez took a throw-in deep in the Rangers’ defensive third to the feet of Schlingmann, who turned and fired the ball into the back of the net, putting Blue Goose up 1-0.

The Rangers’ biggest threat came when their right wing sent a ball toward goal. Blue Goose keeper Brett Ekperuoh struggled with the setting sun as the ball hit the far post. Ekperuoh was able to collect the loose ball just before a Ranger was poised to tap it in the goal.

Blue Goose controlled the ball the majority of the final 20 minutes of the half. They were able to double their lead in the 28th minute, when Martin Weinitschke took a free kick from 40 yards out that deflected off a Rangers defender to the feet of Morris, who calmly slotted the ball in the net past the outstretched arms of the keeper.

The game got chippy after halftime, with foul after foul being called by the center referee, including eight yellow cards issued.

The play was fast, with Blue Goose dominating possession and opportunities throughout the half. In the 83rd minute, Theberge centered a pass to the feet of Bittencourt, who hit a no doubter to finish the score line at 3-0. Little Rock pressed hard for the final 10 minutes, including five minutes of added time. Keeper Ekperuoh came up big late with a couple solid saves and a punch out on a cross that went 30 yards downfield. He finished the game with eight  saves.

“We played at a very high level, but we have plenty of room to get better,” said Theberge, a Quebec native, who currently plays for MidAmerican Nazarene College in Kansas.  “As we play longer together, the better we will be. It was great to start off the season with a win.”

Theberge was clearly the crowd favorite, with repeated cheers for his never-ending effort as he played the full 90 minutes.

Byrd High School standout Brennen Nguyen, at 16 the team’s youngest player, subbed in with 25 minutes left. He held his own with the much older and more seasoned players on the field. 


I Bowl’s flag football event provides nearly $5,000 for local charities

JOURNAL SPORTS

The Independence Bowl Foundation helped raise $4,468 for nine different charitable organizations with its recent second annual 1st & Give Charity Flag Football Tournament.

Nine teams took part this past Saturday at Independence Stadium, with each team playing on behalf of a different non-profit organization. Each charity was donated $350, which was the entrance fee for each team.

Community Support Programs brought home the title for the second consecutive year, and as a result, their organization received $1,668 in donations.

“In just the second year of this event, we are so proud of the progress we have made and more importantly – the impact we have been able to have on different charities throughout the area,” said Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Executive Director Missy Setters. “The tournament grew by two teams this year with players of all different ages and backgrounds from 14-years-old and up, and we were able to give out almost $2,000 more in donations. We believe this event has tremendous potential, and we are excited for it to continue to grow so that we can give even more to local non-profit organizations.”

The nine teams that participated in the tournament and their charities were KTAL News 6 (Gingerbread House), Willis Knighton Health System (D&D Academic Foundation), Cintas (Christian Services), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Coca-Cola Bottling Company (Roy’s Kids), Community Support Programs, Barksdale Air Force Base (Humane Society of NWLA), the Shreveport Police Department (Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club) and the Tigers (Christ Fit Gym).

Photo courtesy of the Independence Bowl


WEEKEND SCHEDULE: Tech hosts Western Kentucky in weekend series

Friday

College Baseball

Texas Southern at Gramling St., 6 p.m.
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech, 6 p.m.
New Orleans at Northwestern St., 6:30 p.m.
ULM at South Alabama, 6:30 p.m.
Ole Miss at LSU, 7:30 p.m.

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

BPCC vs. Coastal Bend, 5 p.m.

C-USA Tournament at Denton, Texas

Louisiana Tech vs. North Texas, noon

Saturday

College Baseball

New Orleans at Northwestern St., 1 p.m.
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech, 2 p.m.
Ole Miss at LSU, 2 p.m.
Texas Southern at Grambling St., 3 p.m.
ULM at South Alabama, 6:30 p.m.

College Softball

C-USA Tournament at Denton, Texas

Louisiana Tech vs. TBD, noon (if Tech advances to championship)

High School Baseball

LHSAA Division IV Playoffs

Calvary vs. Ouachita Christian, 11 a.m.

Sunday

College Baseball

Texas Southern at Gramling St., 1 p.m.
Western Kentucky at Louisiana Tech, 1 p.m.
ULM at South Alabama, 1 p.m.
Ole Miss at LSU, 1 p.m.

Note: The above schedule is subject to cancellations or reschedule


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


‘Eye candy’ helps local 17-year-old make hockey history

SPECIAL K:  Kason Muscutt, 17, became the first area hockey player, and likely the first born in Louisiana, to earn a spot in the USA Hockey U-17 camp.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

One year after one of the biggest disappointments of his young hockey career, Kason Muscutt used a little ‘eye candy’ to make history.

Tuesday, Muscutt learned he was selected to participate in the 2022 USA Hockey Boys Select 17 Camp, where the best 60 players in the country will showcase their talents to the top junior hockey organizations and college programs.

Muscutt, 17, is believed to be the first Louisiana-born player to make the camp. He’s certainly the first from Northwest Louisiana, where there is just a single sheet of ice (George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum) — and it’s not available 12 months a year.

“It’s cool to probably be the first from Louisiana, but I want to be looked at as more than just a kid from Louisiana. I want to be known as a legitimate hockey player,” Muscutt told The Journal.

The Select 17 camp is set for June 22-27 at the Northtown Center & Daemen University in Amherst, N.Y. A group of those players will be selected to remain in Amherst for a camp (June 27-29) that will determine the final U.S. roster for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, a U-18 international hockey tournament in Edmonton this summer.

“This is a really big opportunity for him and he’s worked hard to get it,” said Kason’s father, Scott Muscutt, the general manager for the Shreveport Mudbugs. “Everybody hopes to have this for their kid. He’s getting to skate with the best in the nation.”

Kason Muscutt thought he did enough to make the national camp last year, but the Bossier City forward was gutted when the final roster didn’t include his name.

“It hurt quite a bit last year, I really expected to make it,” he said.

Instead of sulking, Muscutt got better. He believes his work with Matt Merry and D1 Training in Shreveport made a big difference entering this year’s tryout.

“I came into this year way more prepared,” the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Muscutt said. “My body is in the best shape it’s ever been. I believe my speed, strength and power set me apart. I had more eye candy this year.”

Muscutt has had many opportunities to practice with the Mudbugs over the years. Things were different on the ice this season.

“Last year I could keep up, but all I could do is keep up,” he said. “Now I feel like I fit in. I had a little swagger and felt comfortable in my skates.”

The USHL – a Tier-I junior league – is the top goal for the 2022-23 season. However, the NAHL – a Tier-II league – could be an option. 

Would Kason Muscutt consider playing in Shreveport?

“One hundred percent – a million percent,” he said. “I feel like stepping in front of the crowd I’ve been watching from for a very long time, and to give a bunch of kids high-fives, that would be the coolest thing in the world.”

Scott Muscutt was the first player signed by the franchise for its inaugural season. After playing three years, Muscutt became the team’s head coach and won a 2011 President’s Cup championship. He has been Shreveport’s general manager since the Mudbugs were reborn as a junior hockey franchise in 2016.

However, don’t expect dad to try and twist his son’s arm.

“This summer is full of growth, maturation and commitment. He needs to keep putting on weight, keep getting stronger and faster. Could he play here? Absolutely. He could also play in the USHL,” Scott Muscutt said. “Kason has been making his own decisions about hockey since he was 11 years old. He’s decided where he was going to go and who he was going to play for.”

Submitted photo


After $4.5 million renovation, Expo Hall will be indoor sports venue

CONVERSION PLANNED: The City of Shreveport is preparing to reconfigure Expo Hall into a multi-sport indoor public use facility. 

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

A “new” multi-sports venue is coming to Shreveport.

The Journal has learned that Expo Hall, located downtown and built in 1978, will be repurposed to host events such as basketball, volleyball, and pickleball tournaments. City officials hope the facility will generate tax dollars from out-of-towners, as well as bring in rental money from locals wanting to use the facility.

“I think it makes us really competitive for these types of events that go to other communities,” said Shelly Ragle, Director of Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR). “Ruston just recently opened a sports complex. They spent, I think, $30 million — something crazy — on it. This gives us an opportunity in that amateur sports market to bring in more events, which means more money for our city.”

Construction is expected to start within 10-15 days, at a cost to the city of approximately $4.5 million dollars. Work by DBI Construction, headquartered in Bossier City, is expected to take 12-18 months.

“It’s going to be a really nice facility,” Ragle said.

The venue will accommodate as many as six basketball courts (four NCAA-regulation size and two middle school courts), and 15 pickleball stations. “It will have a center court, so you could do a tournament, then have one big, final game in the center,” Ragle said.

Until the Shreveport Convention Center opened in 2006, Expo Hall was the city’s main building for hosting large events. When the movie industry increased production in the Shreveport area, Expo Hall was turned into a soundstage. However, the building has been mostly vacant for approximately six years, briefly housing a downtown unit of the Shreveport Police Department.

“The city was trying to figure out what is the best use of this facility,” Ragle said.

Those discussions began prior to the pandemic, but slowed. Then came last year’s snow and ice.

“This building was affected by the winter storm,” Ragle said. “The heat was on really low. Our fire alarm system froze and busted. We had tons of damage. That set us back some more.”

In recent months, the project has moved forward. The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau paid for an engineering study. Also, a group of city and tourism officials visited other cities to see similar-type venues. Those officials were impressed with — and decided to model the facility after — The Duncanville Fieldhouse, in Duncanville, Texas.

“It will have all-new glass fronts, and just renovated so it can be used for anything done on hardwood,” Ragle said. “Tumbling, wrestling, cheerleading, drill team competitions. Anything you can do on a hard court, you can do on this.”

While tourism was a significant reason for turning Expo Hall into a multi-sports venue, consideration was also given to increasing the quality of life for locals.

“We’ll set it up where you can have birthday parties,” Ragle said. “The guys that might normally jog on the riverfront, they can rent a basketball court for the lunch hour. There are all kinds of things you can do.”

In addition to generating tax dollars and naming rights fees, Ragle hopes the venue will bring more people downtown.

“It anchors one end of the riverfront. This will make (the riverfront) alive and viable again. That’s important to our downtown. It’s important that when visitors come to downtown, they see, hopefully, a very attractive riverfront with a mixture of young and old people.”

Photo by LEE HILLER


Want a (longshot) bet?

At a party over the weekend, I overheard a woman saying she had put a bet on 80-1 longshot Rich Strike to win the Kentucky Derby. While she did collect about $150, she was just one horse away from winning the trifecta – and pocketing over $300,000.

Or something like that. I know less about betting than I know about social media (remember, I had to get someone to make those awful videos disappear from my Facebook screen).

Over/under? That was a game we played during P.E. in high school – the one where you stand in line and pass the ball to the next person, one under, next over, etc.

One of my fondest (translated funniest) memories from that game was when I passed the ball to Susan McClamroch, who reached down between her legs to get the ball, stepped on her hair and came up with a handful of her ponytail. I figure the odds of that happening had to be greater than 80-1.

At 80-1, Rich Strike became the second-longest odds winner in the history of the Kentucky Derby, behind 1913 winner Donerail at 91-1 odds. I’m sure that means some people really raked in the dough. Out of curiosity, I looked up just how much money was actually wagered at the Triple Crown race this year.

Turns out, Rich Strike wasn’t the only one who made history. According to ESPN, a record $179 million was wagered at Churchill Downs this year. Turns out, also, that’s not even close to what was wagered at the Super Bowl ($1 billion) and even further removed from this year’s March Madness ($3.1 billion).

I don’t know how much will be wagered on this year’s College World Series – either in softball or baseball, but I’ve got a couple of bets for you.

The first one is a sure bet (I think that’s what they call a “lock”): take Oklahoma in the Women’s CWS. Now that the conference championships are under way, it won’t be long until we get to one of my new favorite times of the year – the WCWS. When OU goes to Oklahoma City to defend its title beginning on June 2, the Sooners will have the advantage of fielding one of the greatest players in college softball history.

Utility infielder (and NFCA Player of the Year last season) Jocelyn Alo, who became the all-time home run leader when she smashed her 96th career homer on March 11, will be trying to close out her Sooners’ career with another national championship. The Sooners, who return almost their entire team, also have returning NFCA Freshman of the Year Tiare Jennings, who was second in the NCAA in home runs and led the nation in doubles.

If I were a betting person, that’s where my money would go.

I’m not sure who will be favored to win it all when the CWS begins June 16 in Omaha, Neb., but Tennessee has got to be the front-runner. If you’re looking for a dark horse, however, I’ve got one for you.

When Coastal Carolina won the national championship in 2016, it was the first time that a team won the title in its first CWS appearance since Minnesota in 1956. It was also the first national title for the Big South Conference. The Chanticleers joined the Sun Belt Conference shortly thereafter. Florida was the favorite going into the tournament that year.

While the Division I conference tournaments haven’t even gotten under way, I’ll give you an early long shot for this year’s CWS – Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels are currently leading the West Division of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Like the 2016 Chanticleers, the Colonels would be making their first-ever appearance in the national tournament.

If EKU makes it to the A-Sun Tournament (May 24-28), ends up winning the title, and makes it through the June 3-6 regional AND the Super Regional (June 10-13), the next stop would be Omaha. With closer Will Brian leading the nation in saves and left-fielder Kendal Ewell at No. 8 in the nation in batting average, the Colonels are primed for a Cinderella run.

Could the Colonels be the next Chanticleers? You can bet on it.


LCP’s Hulett, Soignier head up All-District 1-3A baseball team

MVP: Loyola’s William Soignier was named the All-District 1-3A  Most Valuable Player after posting a 7-3 record with a 1.45 ERA.

JOURNAL STAFF

Loyola College Prep’s William Soignier was named the Most Valuable Player and coach Jeff Hulett the Coach of the Year on the All-District 1-3A team by district coaches.

Soignier, a senior righthander, finished 2022 with a 7-3 record on the mound with a 1.45 ERA and struck out 72 in 52 innings. He had wins against Parkway (13 strikeouts), Captain Shreve and Calvary. At the plate he hit .321 with 20 RBI.

Hulett led the Flyers to the district championship and a 19-14 overall record.

Here is the list of the All-District 1-3A first team:

First team

P – Jarett Belanger, Loyola

P – Dakota Davison, North Webster

P – Josh Gamble, Mansfield

C – Noble Means, Loyola

1B – Gray Deason, Loyola

2B – Cooper Sanders, North Webster

3B – Konnor O’Neal, Loyola

SS – Reagan Coyle, Loyola

RF – Peyton Thomas, Loyola

CF – Colin LIrette, Loyola

LF – Parker Thomas, Loyola

OF – Kyle Dinkins, North Webster

Util – Chandler Carnahan, Loyola

Util – Colin McKenzie, North Webster

Util – Judd Wesson, North Webster

Util – Jeremy Youngblood, Mansfield

DH – Mason Haynes, North Webster

Most Valuable Player – William Soignier, Loyola

Coach of the Year – Jeff Hulett, Loyola

Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL


Tennis roundup: Shreveport’s Weaver making his mark at A&M

YOUR INVOLVEMENT WELCOMED: The Northwest La. Community Tennis Association is always looking for volunteers to be able to continue its support of the local tennis community.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

Shreveport native Mark Weaver has already led the Texas A&M women’s tennis team to its most successful season in school history and it’s not over yet.

Weaver, a Caddo Magnet graduate, played on the Aggies’ men’s tennis team from 1990-1994 and is in his seventh season as the women’s head coach. The Southeastern Conference champion Lady Aggies (32-1, 13-0 SEC) will host Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at the Mitchell Tennis Center in Bryan-College Station.

The No.7-ranked Lady Aggies are in their third straight Round of 16 and eighth overall in program history.

“I’m very proud of our group,” says Weaver, who started as a volunteer assistant in 1999 and served as both an assistant coach and associate head coach before taking over as head coach in 2015. “We’re a far better team right now than we were back in January. That’s kind of one of our big mottos all throughout the season. I think the team may get tired of hearing it, but it’s ‘Let’s get better today.’ I think we’re really showing it right now.”

Time to step up — With May being National Tennis Month, there is no better time than now to step up and help promote the sport in our community.

An excellent way to pitch in is to become a volunteer at the Northwest Louisiana Community Tennis Association. The CTA is a volunteer organization that supports and provides programs which pulls the community together by promoting and developing the growth of tennis.

The purpose of the NWLACTA is to make a positive impact on the tennis community by providing support and resources in the development of programs, events, leagues, and facilities promoting tennis as a lifetime healthful sport within North Louisiana to all ages and skill levels.

All members of the United States Tennis Association are automatically grandfathered into the CTA. Also, any tennis enthusiast who is willing to devote time and energy and who will bring constructive ideas and suggestions is welcome to be a part of any or all CTA meetings.

For information, check out the CTA website at www.playtennissb.com.

Querbes confirms event – What was once tentatively scheduled is now confirmed. In a unique event, Querbes Park is offering a clinic to introduce kids and adults to two lifetime sports: golf and tennis.

On Saturday, May 28 from 2:00-4:30 p.m., participants can take part in a one-hour introduction to each sport. Tennis director Chris Dudley will get things started at the Tennis Center, followed by golf director Nathan Barrow at the Golf Course. Cost is $25 per participant.

Other activities scheduled for Querbes Tennis Center include an afternoon of fun playing and competition (May 21 from 1-4 p.m.), a Spring Mixer (May 21 from 4-7 p.m.), and “Oldsters and Youngsters” where juniors will play with seniors (May 27 from 9-11 a.m.). For information on  upcoming events, contact Michael Schaff at 318-673-7787 or michael@querbestenniscenter.net.

Photo courtesy of NWLACTA


Loyola names Leaven new girls basketball coach

JOURNAL STAFF

Loyola College Prep has named Jaila Leaven as its next head girls basketball coach.

Leaven will be the first female head basketball coach in the school’s history and mark the first time in 13 seasons Kyle Tanner will not be leading the girls program at Loyola. Tanner, who has led the program the past 12 years after spending the previous nine seasons as an assistant, is stepping down from his role as the Lady Flyers head basketball coach.

“It’s a great feeling to be the first female basketball coach at Loyola,” said Leaven. “We need more women to take the leadership roles to show young girls that they can do it too. There is a long history of great coaches here at Loyola, especially in basketball and I am grateful to be among them.”

Leaven joined Loyola as a physical education teacher and assistant basketball coach in 2020.

Prior to joining Loyola, Leaven was a student basketball coach at East Texas Baptist University and has coached basketball for Thrive 360, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk teens. She also played college basketball at LeTourneau University.

With a record of 241-150 as head coach, Tanner is by far the winningest coach in school history for girls basketball. He led Loyola to the 2011-12 Class 2A state championship. Leaven said she is grateful for the opportunity to learn from Tanner during her time at Loyola.

Coach Tanner has definitely left some big shoes to fill, which I don’t have a problem doing the work to fill them,” she said. “He is such a selfless person that always puts the team’s needs first no matter what. I am blessed to have in my life on the court and off.”

While Tanners is retiring as a coach, he will continue teaching speech and media arts at Loyola.

“I am grateful for Kyle and the many years he has given to the girls basketball program at Loyola,” John LeBlanc, principal at Loyola, said. “I know Jaila will take what she has learned under Kyle’s leadership and continue to improve on it and make it her own. We are looking forward to a great season next year, and I am excited about what she and the girls are going to achieve.”


Go deep, to the brush piles, for post-spawn crappie

“OK,” said Matt Loetscher, “we’re on top of the brush pile. Drop your shiner straight down and you ought to get a bite.”

Loetscher’s comment was directed at me and I did exactly what he suggested. The shiner had no sooner descended to the brush pile when I felt the bite. Setting the hook, I hauled the chunky crappie to Loetscher’s waiting landing net.

This was one of more than 40 crappie our party of four outdoor communicators hauled aboard in little more than two hours of fishing Toledo Bend a couple of summers ago.

We were there at the invitation of Johnny Wessler, Executive Director of Louisiana North, a marketing coalition for 29 parishes in north Louisiana. Our trip to Toledo Bend was the final leg of our four-lake excursion across north Louisiana.

We visited lakes Claiborne, Caney, and Caddo in October with Toledo Bend scheduled next on the docket. However, flooding rains postponed our trip to the Bend until the following year and thanks to Living the Dream guide service, Loetscher in particular, we were exposed to one of the hottest tickets in this part of the country — catching Toledo Bend crappie hand over fist.

Loetscher is one of eight full-time guides working for Living the Dream and he is one of the best. We fished over planted brush Loetscher had placed in strategic locations around the lake and at each stop, the crappie were cooperative.

“Generally throughout the summer, the brush piles will produce for us. We cut a bunch of trees, willows and sweet gums in particular, and the fish really relate to this cover we provide. These two species of trees have plenty of foliage and provide cover and shade for the crappie. The brush draws bait fish and this concentrates the crappie into small areas,” said Loetscher.

The brush piles are not randomly dropped into the lake, which would require incidental location of the piles. Each tree is lowered into the lake anchored by a concrete block with empty plastic jugs at the top of each tree to cause it to stand upright. A GPS (global positioning system) mark is put on each top so that guides can put clients right on top of each brush pile.

“Some folks like to use Christmas trees as cover to attract crappie, and these work OK. However, the trees we use – we’ll build as many as 200 brush piles a year – have lots of natural foliage which tends to stay on the brush for a long time,” Loetscher said.

The trolling motor Loetscher uses has a GPS system built into it and while the guide is busy keeping hooks baited and netting fish, the trolling motor keeps the boat on top of the brush pile.

How does Loetscher know where to place his brush piles? Are they dropped randomly into the lake with the outside chance crappie will find them?

“I do lots of research, spend hours studying topographic maps and I spend time graphing with my sonar and imaging to find areas more likely to attract fish. If I find a spot where there are some fish hanging around natural cover such as stumps or brush, I’ll enhance that spot with the brush I plant there,” Loetscher said.

In spring, crappie are attracted to shallow water where spawning takes place. However once the spawn is done, the fish migrate to deeper water looking for shade and shelter where there is plenty of forage to help them recover from the rigors of the spawn.

Loetscher and the other guides at Living the Dream guide service work hard to provide a good fishing experience for clients. It must work because the previous year, Toledo Bend gave up 45,000 crappie credited to clients served by the guide service.

To get in on the action, contact Living the Dream at www.ltdguideservice.com.