The 2017 John Curtis baseball season will long be remembered, for a number of remarkable reasons. It merits a look back:
The Patriots opened the season with an impressive 13-4 pre-district record. But the best was yet to come. Defending the first-ever Catholic League championship they worked so hard to achieve last year was very much a daunting task. This was year two: year two for Curtis to compete in the always-tough district 9-5A wars, and year two for Jeff Curtis to serve as head coach.
The ’17 Patriots played with the proverbial target on their backs, with teams throughout the league out to show they couldn’t do it again. What outsiders didn’t see in that 13-4 start was the way Curtis brought his young team along to get it ready for the district. While playing to win every time out, he used the pre-district schedule to find replacements for a half-dozen starters and to develop depth on his pitching staff.
Once he determined his starting lineup, he stayed with it, building confidence and consistency. And that lineup enabled him to utilize interchangeable parts, with nearly every player capable of playing multiple positions.
His hitters composed a team batting average of .313. The Patriots pounded the ball all season; 108 of their 250 hits went for extra bases including 22 home runs. That added up to a team slugging percentage of .506. The defense played near-flawless baseball, posting a.930 fielding percentage.
And the pitching staff? Curtis had no problem moving pitchers in and out of his rotation. As many as 13 different players got a shot on the mound, building a team ERA of 2.10.
Highlighting the early season, the Patriots swept Lutcher, Mandeville and St. Charles to go 3-0 in the St. Charles Tournament. A trip up North resulted in wins over Ruston and East Ascension sandwiched around a loss to West Monroe.
The segue from pre-district to Catholic League competition featured a 9-game winning streak. When the bell rang for district 9-5A, the Patriots came out swinging with surprising 11-1 and 10-0 wins over Brother Martin. Jay Curtis was the winning pitcher and drove in 5 runs in the opener. Ian Landreneau got the complete game shutout victory in the second game.
Ian Haensel gave Holy Cross fits in the next two games. Haensel was the winning pitcher in the first game, an 8-4 Curtis win. Three days later he had 5 RBIs to lead the Patriots to a 13-5 victory.
Curtis rebounded from a 4-0 loss to Shaw by clipping the Eagles, 13-2, behind Landon Stevens home run and 4 RBIs. Cade Beloso was the winning pitcher and supported himself with 3 RBIs in a 10-0 victory over St. Augustine. Dax Ford enjoyed a home run and 3 RBIs in the ensuing11-1 win over the Purple Knights.
Beloso blasted 2 home runs in his first two at bats and finished with 5 RBIs in the first of the 2-game set with Jesuit, an 11-2 Patriot win. At that point, Curtis was on top of the Catholic League standings with an 8-1 record and had outscored their district opponents by an astounding 87-21.
But this was district 9-5A, and things were about to get much tougher. Curtis needed 2 wins in their final 3 games to take sole possession of the district championship.
First came the feisty Blue Jays in the rematch. In a strange game that started Apr. 21 and ended the next day (due to an injury to the home plate umpire), the Patriots prevailed, 8-7. Curtis appeared to be cruising, 8-4, when the game was suspended. But they finally had to fend off a determined Jesuit rally and did so when Beloso shut down the last two batters with the tying run in scoring position; one of the biggest saves of the season.
Next, Rummel pushed it to the limit with a 3-2 win over Curtis. The Raiders needed to win again to gain a share of the championship. Curtis was having none of that, and a suspenseful 7-6 game ended when Brandon Davis sprinted home from third on a passed ball, triggering a celebration in front of the Curtis dugout.
The Patriot fans were on the front edge of their seats for the start of the best-of-three quarterfinal series with archrival Evangel coming to town. They were soon reclining on the back edge when the Patriots came roaring out of the dugout to take an 11-0 lead en route to a 12-2 victory. Landreneau held them to three hits in the route-going win. Haensel and Alex Michel had home runs in the 7-run first inning.
Day 2 stared off like a carbon copy, with Curtis applying a near-knockout blow in the first round. Hitting as the visiting team at Mike Miley, Curtis was ahead, 4-0, before Evangel picked up a bat. Jay Curtis whacked a home run and Beloso picked up his fourth win of the season. The 8-2 victory moved the Patriots along on the road to Sulphur and the Select Division I semifinals.
Meanwhile, Rummel defeated Jesuit in their quarterfinal series to set up a third straight Patriot-Raider confrontation in the semifinals. After two one-run games between the two that ended the regular season, the media anticipated another tight battle. Didn’t happen. With their sights squarely set on moving on to the championship game, Curtis started early and stayed late, scoring all of its runs in the first three innings on the way to a 7-0 win. Sophomore Dax Ford turned in a gem on the mound for Curtis, firing a three-hit route going shutout.
Brandon Davis’s single and Jordin Labruzza’s wall-banging double got things going in the first inning. Cade Beloso and Jay Curtis followed with RBI’s. Davis’s double over the center fielder’s head scored Austin Haensel and Logan Stevens, and Davis scored on a Labruzza single to make it 5-0, Curtis in the second. An Ian Landreneau single chased home Ford and Haensel with two more in the third to account for the 7-0 result.
So the state title was on the line, and it featured a matchup between #1 seeded John Curtis and #2 seeded Baton Rouge-Catholic. In that spotlight, Ian Landreneau turned in the first no-hitter in the hundreds of championship games in Louisiana high school baseball history. Landreneau retired the first 14 batters he faced and saved some clutch pitching for the very end in his historic performance. With two outs and the bases loaded on two walks and an error in the seventh inning, he induced a soft liner into the waiting glove of shortstop Brandon Davis and the celebration was on.
Cade Beloso provided the big blow in the third inning, ripping a three-run home run far over the right centerfield wall. Hunter Bufkin got it going with a leadoff walk. With two out, Haensel was hit by a pitch to set the table for Beloso’s blast. The Patriots extended the lead in the next inning when Logan Stevens scampered all the way home from first on a three-base error. Two more errors contributed to another insurance run in the fifth with Cade Comeaux touching home plate.
Landreneau’s jewel came against a team that came in with three hitters in the starting lineup batting over .300. The Bears sported a 29-8 record that included a late season 14-game winning streak and a 9-1 march to the District 5-5A crown.
What did this Patriot team accomplish? Try this:
- It was the 8thState Championship for Curtis. Previous State titles were in 1982 (2A), 1990 (3A), 1991 (4A), 1997 (4A), 2000 (4A), 2002 (4A), and 2015 (3A).
- It was the school’s first championship in the LHSAA’s highest classification
- The Patriots won 19 of their last 21 games, dating back to March 16. That’s only two losses in eight weeks.
- Dating back to the first game of Catholic League play (March 21) Curtis was 15-2, winning 10 of those games by 5 runs or more.
- T-P/NOLA.com All-Metro (covers all schools in the area): Cade Beloso MVP, plus first teamers Ian Landreneau, Jay Curtis & Dax Ford.
- TP-NOLA.com All-Metro Coach of the Year: Jeff Curtis.
- Louisiana Sports Writers Assn. All-District 9-5A: Cade Beloso MVP, plus first teamers Ian Landreneau, Jay Curtis, Brandon Davis, Dax Ford & Austin Haensel.
- LSWA All-District 9-5A Coach of the Year: Jeff Curtis.
- Rod Walker’s Best Individual Performance of the Year: Ian Landreneau.