A bad hop here, a single through the infield there and the Barbe Buccaneers might have been the national champions in 2013. As it was, Glenn Cecchini's crew came up short in the third round of the Louisiana Class 5A state playoffs, falling to West Monroe 13-4 to finish the year at 36-4.
The loss to West Monroe was the one misstep by a team that had won its previous five games by shutout and had only three other losses, all by one run each. But perhaps that one hardship has strengthened the Buccaneers, a team Cecchini says is very close and determined to be one of the best in the country.
"This group has genuine love for one another," said Cecchini. "It has chemistry, experience, toughness, humility, a burning desire to excel in everything. The starting lineup has a 3.8 combined GPA."
Blessed with eight players who could play at the next level, Barbe begins the 2014 season ranked No. 6 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 Preseason National Baseball Rankings. MaxPreps is currently counting down its top 10 with the Top 100 to be posted on Feb. 21. See the Top 10 teams landing page here
For Barbe, being nationally ranked is nothing new. The Buccaneers were ranked in the top 10 for much of last year and have won six state championships since 1998, most recently in 2012. Barbe has also been ranked as the top team in the country, finishing No. 1 in a national poll in 2008.
Coach Cecchini has sent numerous players on to the college and minor league ranks over the years, including his own sons Garin and Gavin. So he knows a few things about baseball talent. When he says that this year's Barbe team could be one of the best he's ever coached, you sit up and take notice.
The reason for Cecchini's optimism is the high number of players expected to play college ball. Leading the group is LSU commit Beau Jordan, a left fielder who could also be one of six Barbe players selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Another possible draft pick? Beau's twin brother Bryce, who missed all of last season with an injury but was a two-year starter at catcher prior to his junior season. Like Beau, Bryce has committed to play at LSU.
Despite losing District MVP Sloan Dieter to graduation, the pitching staff returns a ton of wins, including 17 combined from the trio of Erin Baldwin (7-0), Gunner Leger (6-0) and Trevor Beauboef (4-1). Cecchini is also excited about a pair of freshmen in Adam Goree and Slate Fuller, both of whom already throw in the low to mid-80s.
The infield looks solid with returning all-district second baseman Braden Comeaux, shortstop and two-sport star Kennon Fontenot (he threw for over 10,000 career yards in football) and Braedon Barrett at third base.
In the outfield, sophomore phenom Garrett Williams, who has major Division I offers according to Cecchini, joins Beau Jordan and senior Nicholas Abshire, a Division I prospect who has a 30 ACT and will likely concentrate on academics in college. Also returning is Shane Shelman who batted .400 last year as a junior.View a gallery of Barbe preseason photo shoot