Comets Win Division III State Baseball Championship
It has truly been a whirlwind year for the people of LaPlace and for St. Charles Catholic High School.
The wind whirled around and through the city on August 29, 2021.
The water followed in furious fashion.
The community, at large, was devastated by the fury of Hurricane Ida, which flooded and even destroyed homes, property and even damaged facilities at the school.
With families, students teachers, coaches and others displaced, the spirit of the Comets rose above the tragic circumstances, returning to the community, living wherever was required to live and to return to school.
By December, the St. Charles Catholic football team had given the community a wonderful, uplifting gift with a Division III state football championship.
By May, the St. Charles Catholic baseball team gave the community another wonderful, uplifting gift with a Division III state baseball championship.
Michael Hotard pitched a one-hitter and delivered an RBI single in the fourth inning to lift the second-seeded Comets to a 2-0 victory over No. 1 seed St. Thomas Aquinas to capture the title at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field in Hammond.
Hotard was brilliant, walking just one, hitting a batter and he struck out six.
St. Charles Catholic (28-9) added an insurance run in the seventh inning when Ian Arnett walked and scored on an RBI double by Jackson Monica.
Gavin Foster pitched well but took the loss, allowing one run in five innings pitched. Layton Pittman wen the final two innings and allowed a run for the Falcons (29-8). It was the final game for coach Cole Catalano, who is leaving the St. Thomas Aquinas program to enter private business.
Not only was the win a daily double for St. Charles Catholic but it is a daily double for a terrific coach in Wayne Stein.
It was Stein who coached the Comets to the state championship in football in his first year on the job.
It is Stein who coached the Comets to the state championship in baseball in his tenth year. It is the second for Stein, who coached the Comets to a state baseball title in 2019.
“I’m sure that not too many coaches have won both football and baseball in the same year so it is very special, something I will cherish,” Stein said. “Of course, it is not about me. It is about the coaches and the young men who rose above the very difficult circumstances they were faced with.”
A total 22 of the 25 varsity players on the Comets baseball team played football, including all of the starters on the baseball squad.
“It is just a resilient group,” Stein said. “They portray what the River Parishes is all about. They play with grittiness. They play with toughness. Not many will play at the next level. They just maximize their ability with their toughness. That is what gives them a chance to succeed.”
Overcoming adversity has been a constant theme at St. Charles Catholic in recent years.
“I think it started with COVID, teaching everyone a lesson about what can happen when things are taken away,” Stein said. “Then came Hurricane Ida. We didn’t even know if we would have a season. We played in makeshift dugouts all season and had no scoreboard. We kept score manually. It put everything into perspective, to stop worrying about little things and to focus on big things.”
While the goal was to win the state title, just getting on the field was the biggest goal achieved.
“Our kids were happy to play,” Stein said. “It made athletics important again. For some, playing ball is the most normal thing going on in their lives . Some kids are still living in campers in the driveways. Others still have tarps on roofs. There are still many home repairs taking place. This is a sense of normalcy.”
The championship was truly a team effort.
“My assistants did such a great job,” Stein said. “They spent so much time at the office studying our opponent and preparing our kids. Having the extra days due to the game being pushed back two days helped with information. What a performance by Hotard, who gave up an infield single and nothing else. To produce a run as well was huge. He was not in the lineup all season. The way he threw, he was lights out.”
While Hotard was the star Monday, Stein gave credit to another significant group.
“I can’t say enough about my seniors,” Stein said. “We have 11 and only four started. Rather than complaining and hurting team chemistry, the others worked so hard and pushed our young guys and pulled for them. When you have great leadership from seniors and it is all about winning and not being selfish but selfless, this is the result you get. It is special.”
Last Friday, many members of the St. Charles Catholic football team received their rings from the football state title. Many of those members are also on the Comets baseball team. A second ring is in their immediate future.
“I guess we will spend more money or find more money but it is worth it,” Stein said.
A 1999 St. Charles Catholic graduate, Stein has been coaching and teaching at his alma mater since 2004 and has seen the glory and the difficult times at St. Charles Catholic, which took in students from many area schools following Hurricane Katrina, helping many families return home.
Now, many families have returned to LaPlace to help restore the community and the school which the community loves and is so proud of.
Now, those families have a chance to celebrate once again, thanks to success on the diamond.
(story by Ken Trahan of CrescentCitySports.com)