Notre Dame set for quarterfinal showdown at Livonia
CROWLEY – One year ago, Notre Dame’s Pios pulled out all stops in a thrilling 9-8 victory over the Livonia Wildcats in the Class AAA semifinals in Ruston.
Monday, the two teams meet again, only this time, it is for the opportunity to advance to the state tournament.
The two teams square off in Livonia in a quarterfinal contest set to get under way at 4:30 p.m.
Livonia led last year’s semifinal contest on four different occasions, but Notre Dame rallied each time to either tie the score or go ahead before winning the game in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Notre Dame head coach Timmy Robichaux is expecting much of the same this go-round, too.
“They (Livonia) are well coached and they have a good team,” said Robichaux. “They really put up a fight last year in the semifinals so I’m sure it will be the same type of game.”
Livonia, the No. 9 seed, enters the contest fresh off a 5-0 road victory over No. 8 North DeSoto.
Wildcat pitcher Mason Torres did most of the damage, striking out nine while also hitting a home run. Patrick Juge had three hits, including a double and two RBI while Brandon Armand had two hits and two RBI.
Livonia also defeated Kaplan in the first round, 7-0.
“We don’t really know much about them,” said Robichaux of Livonia. “They are pretty good defensively and they have two right-handed pitchers, but neither is really overpowering.
“They hit the ball pretty well overall though. They are a pretty solid team. It will definitely be the best team we’ve played in the playoffs so far.”
Livonia will get the daunting task of facing UL-Lafayette signee Austin Robichaux, who is 10-0 on the season with an earned run average below one. The-hard throwing senior has given up just one earned run and struck out 92 in 67 1/3 innings.
“Austin will get the start and try to pitch us into the tournament,” said coach Robichaux of his nephew. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve always done, you know, pitching and defense and hope our hitters can get on track a little bit earlier in the game.”
Robichaux faced Livonia last season when he entered the semifinal game in the fifth inning in relief of Ryan Leonards. He surrendered three runs on one hit and three walks in earning the victory.
This year, the Pios have been solid when their ace has been on the mound and coach Robichaux is expecting Monday to be no different.
“Our defense has played well pretty much all year,” said Robichaux. “What’s good is when Austin is on the mound, he normally has high strikeout totals which lessens the number of plays our defense has to make over a seven inning period.”
With Robichaux limiting opponents, the rest will be left up to the Pios’ offense.
Notre Dame has scored 265 runs in 34 games. Lately, however, they’ve struggled, averaging just over five runs in their last nine games.
That’s a far stretch from the 8.9 runs they put up in the first half of the season.
“Hopefully we can just get back to the way we were when we started the season,” said Robichaux. “If we can get going offensively, up and down the lineup, like we did early in the season...that coupled with our pitching should give us a good chance to get deeper into the playoffs.”
Austin Robichaux is also the Pios’ leader at the plate, hitting .412 with 11 doubles, five triples, three home runs and 48 RBI. Connor Goss follows with a .406 average with 12 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 39 RBI.
Leadoff man Luke Bourgeois is third, hitting .385 with eight doubles, three triples, one home run and 17 RBI.
“We’ve faced some offspeed stuff during the course of district play, but we really do have the potential to be a very good hitting team and slug the ball,” said Robichaux. “That’s what we were doing early on, we were slugging the ball, driving the ball, getting multiple base hits. They are capable of doing that.”
Notre Dame showed the potential for the big inning last Tuesday in their 11-1 regional victory over Bunkie. The Pios banged out five hits, including a walk-off grand slam from Austin Robichaux, in the final inning against the Panthers.
“Right there at the end of the game reminded me of how we were swinging the bats early in the season,” said Robichaux. “I think if they just get focused again at the plate, we can add a good offense in the package with our pitching and defense.”