Pope John Paul II (9-16) at Sterlington (22-7), Friday, 4:30 p.m.
As the No. 4 seed in the Class 2A baseball playoff bracket, the Sterlington Panthers will host No. 29 Pope John Paul II Friday at 4:30 p.m. in a first-round matchup.
Sterlington coach Mark Sims isn't putting much stock in the Jaguars' low seeding and 9-16 record.
“I don't have much information on them, but they beat Northlake Christian twice and Northlake Christian beat us,” Sims said. “You can throw all the records out. Obviously, they must have something.”
Pope John swept Northlake Christian, its crosstown Slidell rival, in District 6-2A play (6-5, 4-3). Meanwhile, Northlake Christian is the only team to shutout the Panthers this season, winning a 3-0 verdict in the Ouachita Christian Tournament on March 7.
Sims expects the Panthers to see Pope John ace Chris Roberson on the mound. Roberson is also one of the Jaguars' main threats at the plate.
“(Roberson) strikes out a lot of folks,” Sims said. “We have to throw strikes, make the routine plays and put the ball in play.”
Sims had not named a starter as of Wednesday afternoon, though he said he is leaning toward Ross Lambert (7-2, 1.17), who threw four shutouts in 10 regular season starts. In 47 2/3 innings, the junior lefthander has recorded 43 punchouts against 21 walks and 33 hits.
Sims is also considering freshmanrighthander Spencer Davis (8-1, 2.78) and senior righthander Austin Haman (2-1, 1 save, 5.43).
Davis has worked a staff-high 50 1/3 innings, totaling 35 strikeouts, while walking 21 and yielding 39 hits.
Haman was limited to 19 1/3 regular season innings due to arm issues. He has fanned 18 and walked seven, while surrendering 22 hits.
“In the playoffs, you have to be ready to run all three of them out there,” Sims said.
Sterlington brings a .277 team batting average and a 2.65 team ERA into the postseason.
Haman and seniorsecond baseman Austin Mills form a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the Panthers' batting order.
Haman leads the team in several major categories, including batting average (.417), runs (47) and walks (30). He is also tied for the team lead with three home runs and nine doubles, while collecting 17 RBI.
Mills is next with a .351 batting average, a home run and 38 runs scored, while leading the club in RBI (24), stolen bases (13) and sacrifice hits (7).
Among the Panthers' other offensive leaders are sophomore shortstop Devon Murphy (.289, 1 HR, 9 2Bs, 22 RBI) and senior center fielder Zac Corrent (.288, 14 RBI).
Sterlington enters the playoffs without one of its major run producers, senior first baseman Tyler Buffington (.264, 3 HR, 18 RBI), who went down with an ankle injury on April 17.
Following Buffington's injury, freshman Auston Smith caught the final four regular season games, with senior Kyle Vandergracht moving from catcher to first base.
Friday's winner will be paired against the No. 20 Dunham-No. 13 Oakdale winner in the regional round.