Pensacola Catholic (Fla.)
coach Richard LaBounty led his Crusader team to the greatest season in school history; some would even say that his 2013 team is the greatest high school team in any sport to come out of the Pensacola area.
The Crusaders began the season ranked No. 7 in the MaxPreps preseason national rankings
and gradually rose to the top as they kept knocking down opponent after opponent. Once Pensacola Catholic took over the top spot in April, it never relinquished it, finishing the season 30-0 and becoming the first Pensacola team to finish a season undefeated.
"All the kids cared about was winning," said LaBounty. "They didn't care about their stats. They all got along so well."
Ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps
over outstanding teams from Owasso (Okla.), Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, Calif.), Venice (Fla.) and The Woodlands (Texas), Pensacola Catholic was deemed by the Pensacola News Journal
as, perhaps, the greatest high school sports team in Pensacola history.
Leading the way to such an historic season is LaBounty, who has coached close to 30 years at Pensacola Catholic. For his outstanding efforts this season, LaBounty has been chosen as the MaxPreps National Baseball Coach of the Year.
After winning a state championship in 2012, LaBounty had an idea that the Crusaders would be one of the teams to beat this season in Class 4A.
"We had two Division I pitchers and six starters returning," said LaBounty. "I started to think before the season began that if we stayed healthy we would have an outside chance to win every game."
Not that it was easy. The Crusaders had a close call early in the season against a state powerhouse and had to go extra innings to win the state championship game against Monsignor Pace.
"Playing national power Pace at our Double A stadium in Pensacola was a big game for us," said LaBounty. The attendance was 2,207 and we scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth to win 4-1. Of course the state championship game was another big one. We won 7-5 in eight innings."
LaBounty says that the community of Pensacola has also had a big part in the success of the team.
"This is a great sports town," he said. "We have very knowledgeable fans and as we continued to win, the whole city got behind us."
The undefeated season, the state championship and a No. 1 national ranking left no doubt in LaBounty's mind where the 2013 season stands among the 29 teams he's coached at Pensacola Catholic.
"This is the greatest season ever," he said. "Although I have had the pleasure to coach some great teams and great players in the previous 29 years, this year has been the best. I will cherish this forever."