St. Mary Central coach Ray “Booter” Mason said the 7-8- year-old squad he is bringing to this year’s Louisiana AA Tournament is the best he has ever had.
Considering Mason has brought two other squads to state in this age group, that only can be a good thing.
St. Mary Central, which is undefeated in postseason play thus far, will begin play in the 24-team AA (pitching machine) state tournament in Pineville Thursday with a 5 p.m. matchup with Minden Cont.
The squad will continue bracket play on Friday with three games, Vernon Central (9 a.m.), Jena (12:45 p.m.) and Mamou (4:30 p.m.). On Saturday, the squad will play Morehouse at 12:45 p.m.
Following pool play, whoever has the best record in SMC’s bracket will advance to play against winners of the three other brackets on Saturday and Sunday before a champion is crowned Sunday evening.
While this is Mason’s third trip to the state tournament with a local squad, he has yet to win a game with this age group at the elite level.
However, his past experience has prepared him for what to expect and better prepare his squad.
“I know what the other coaches and the kids don’t know,” he said. “We’re going to play with the big boys. It’s all good teams. It’s not going to be (any) gimmies out there. We’re going to have to earn it.”
Mason said he thinks his squad will have a better showing this time, too.
After winning the Kenny Roy Invitational — a post-season tune up — with a 5-0 mark as well as winning every scrimmage it has participated in, the squad continued its perfect streak with a 4-0 mark during the District 3 AA Tournament in Franklin last weekend.
However, it wasn’t always easy.
While St. Mary Central easily dispatched of Morgan City, it had to rally to beat Patterson, Thibodaux and Franklin.
“They don’t get down,” Mason said of his squad’s demeanor when they are trailing.
Although the squad has had nothing but success as members of this all-star squad, earlier this season they struggled when many of them played together on 8U travel ball club.
Mason said he thought those struggles, though, helped his team improve.
“I’m just surprised to see how quickly they’ve come together,” Mason said. “As long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve never seen a team come together and play together so well. That’s something you can’t teach.”
Having talent doesn’t hurt, either, said Mason, in speaking of second baseman Clay Menard and shortstop Carter Williams. “That’s the best 8-year-old players I’ve ever seen defensively.”