Sterlington (24-7) at Catholic-New Iberia (18-12), Friday, 4 p.m.
Chasing its first State Tournament berth since 2010, the Sterlington Panthers (24-7) visit the Catholic-New Iberia Panthers (18-12) for a Class 2A quarterfinal matchup Friday at 4 p.m.
Following back-to-back state runner-up seasons in 2009 and '10, Sterlington was eliminated in the second round the past three years.
Like Sterlington, Catholic is in the quarterfinals after a brief absence, following regional exits in 2012 and '13. In the three prior seasons, Catholic reached the Class 3A quarterfinals.
Catholic coach Tim Comeaux and assistant Craig Brodie were able to get an eye witness account of Sterlington in Friday's 5-4 victory over Oakdale.
“Sterlington certainly played well enough to win (Wednesday),” Comeaux said. “Seeing them for the first time doesn't necessarily give you a good read on them.”
Sterlington has overcome 26 punchouts in its two postseason victories, including 10 against Oakdale lefthander Nick Hulick.
“Some of their hitters swung the bat real well,” Comeaux said. “A lot of those strikeouts were on slow curves, so that is something we are certainly going to take a look at.”
Contacted Wednesday night en route back to New Iberia, Comeaux said he was undecided on a starting pitcher for the Sterlington game.
“That decision has yet to be made final. I'm leaning toward (Blake) Gonsoulin,” Comeaux said. “We want to pitch to our strengths rather than our opponents' weaknesses. We'll take a look and see who matches up the best.”
Jordan Miller is also being considered for Friday's starting assignment.
Among the Catholic Panthers' top position players are shortstop Cole Prejean, catcher Kylan Bonin, first baseman Austin Menard, roving infielder T.J. Norris and outfielders Cortland Parr, Payton Pharr and Jason Pellerin.
Regrouping from a slow start, Catholic won the District 5-2A championship.
“Like a lot of teams, we weren't able to practice early because it was so cold and wet,” Comeaux said. “After the first two weekend tournaments, we were 3-6. At times we were scratching our heads, trying to figure out a way to fix the puzzle and make it work better.”
Catholic, the No. 12 seed, owns playoff victories over Springfield (9-1) and Rosepine (6-4).
A rugged non-district schedule — 10 of CHS' 12 losses were to teams in Class 3A and above — left the squad battle-tested.
“We try to play as tough of a schedule as possible,” said Comeaux, whose schedule included the likes of Class 5A Thibodaux and New Iberia High, Class 4A Teurlings Catholic and Vandebilt Catholic and Class 3A E.D. White and University High. “We never shy away from playing the better teams in every class. We feel like it helps us in the long run.”
Comeaux expects his Panthers to be in for another challenge Friday afternoon.
“I'm looking forward to a great game,” Comeaux said. “I think the two teams are fairly evenly-matched. Like any contest, it's going to come down to who plays the best. Obviously, Catholic High has to play well.”
Friday's winner advances to the Class 2A State Tournament at McMurry Park in Sulphur where it will play the Oak Grove-Opelousas Catholic winner on Saturday, May 17.