Notre Dame armed for run at title

CROWLEY – The Livonia Wildcats have made a habit of scoring runs in bunches in 2010.

The No. 3-seeded Wildcats have scored 321 runs in 34 games, 18 times scoring in double figures, including a 36-1 victory over Pointe Coupee Central earlier in the year.

But for all of their run-scoring ability, the Wildcats may be hard-pressed to duplicate some those numbers when they meet Notre Dame at 1 p.m. at Louisiana Tech’s J.C. Love Field in Ruston.

The game is one of two Class AAA semifinal games being played that day. Earlier in the day, at 10 a.m., No. 8 seed E.D. White, which eliminated two-time defending champion Parkview Baptist (5-0) in the quarterfinals Monday, will take on No. 4 Brusly.

The Wildcats will find themselves facing a Notre Dame pitching staff that has been the envy of many in 2010, just as any staff with a 1.99 earned run average would.

“Really, all of our pitchers have done a good job all year long,” said Notre Dame coach Timmy Robichaux. “We try to have organized bullpen sessions with them and make sure they understand about command and trying to pitch to contact.”

Although the Pios have used at least six pitchers during the course of the season, junior Austin Robichaux and senior Ryan Leonards have been the aces. That duo has accounted for 16 victories and a combined 173 strikeouts in just over 129 innings.

“Austin and Ryan have definitely pitched most of the bigger games for us and they will continue to pitch the bigger games,” said coach Robichaux.

The younger Robichaux is 7-3 on the season with two saves and has an ERA of 1.01. He has given up 33 hits, walked 22 and struck out 89 in 69 1/3 innings.

Leonards has compiled a record of 9-1 with one save and has an ERA of 1.28. He has given up 40 hits and 22 walks while striking out 84 in 60 1/3 innings.

Although coach Robichaux has not definitely penciled in a starter for Friday’s semifinal contest, he is leaning towards Leonards.

“We haven’t locked anything in place yet but after scouting Livonia, more than likely we might end up starting Ryan,” said the elder Robichaux. “We have all the confidence in the world in both of them (Robichaux and Leonards). We feel like we have a shot to win with either of them on the mound.”

Austin Robichaux threw the first two playoff games for the Pios, recording shutouts in each.

Leonards got the call in the quarterfinals against Catholic High of New Iberia and limited the Panthers to just one run on four hits.

“Austin has a little more dominant stuff,” said coach Robichaux. “He comes from a pitching background and he has a little more movement on his pitches.

“Ryan is a little different. He has done so much better of a job of being a pitcher. He was kind of a thrower last year, but I really consider him a pitcher this year.”

Even with Robichaux or Leonards on the mound, balls still do get put into play.

That’s where the nearly flawless Pio defense comes into play.

With the speed of Luke Bourgeois, Ricky Stoma and Paiton McBride in the outfield, it is hard for hitters to find any gaps.

Notre Dame’s infield play has also been solid from corner to corner with Pete Petitjean at first base, Mitch Corzine at second, Connor Goss at third and either Leonards or Robichaux at shortstop. Blaine Richard handles the catching duties.

“What we preach every day is to locate and make people earn everything,” said Tim Robichaux. “We tell them: don’t walk people; don’t give them anything for free; make them put the ball in play and let your defense work.

“And that has worked for us this year and, really, I think it is one of the main reasons we got so close last year. We played good defense and we had good pitching which allows you a chance to win every time you take the field.”

Thus far, Notre Dame’s pitching and defense has carried them back to the Class AAA finals for a second straight year. Only this time, the Pios are looking for more.

“Last year, I think we were kind of satisfied to just make it to the semifinals,” said Robichaux. “They got a taste of it last year. Now, we’re going down there to play for the state championship.”

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