Jensen is top coach, three Eagles make squad
From Staff and
To say year one as a head coach was a good one for Central Catholic baseball skipper Tyler Jensen is an understatement.
The 25-year-old CCHS coach led his team to not only a District 8-1A runner-up finish, but a Class 1A state championship appearance as a No. 10 seed where the Eagles suffered their only post-season blemish, a 10-0, five-inning loss to No. 1 Ouachita Christian.
For his efforts, Jensen was honored Thursday by the Louisiana Sportswriters Association as the Class 1A Coach of the Year. Three of his players were selected for the squad, including two on the first team. Sophomore pitcher Bryson Barbier and junior outfielder Josh Singleton were first team selections, while sophomore designated hitter Barron Courtney was chosen as an honorable mention utility selection.
OCS’ Mark Laird, the title game’s MVP, was chosen as the Class 1A Player of the Year.
Jensen finished his inaugural season with a 20-11 overall record and led the Eagles to their first trip to the state finals since his senior year of high school in 2005 when the Eagles won their last championship.
“It’s a big honor,” Jensen said Thursday. “I guess it’s kind of overwhelming. There are a lot of good coaches in the state that deserved it over me. I guess it’s a testament to our coaching staff. I don’t make decisions on my own.”
While he said he knew he probably had a chance at the award, Jensen said he thought Country Day’s Sam Dozier probably would have received it for the work he did to turn his squad around after a slow start. CCHS defeated Country Day, 3-0, in the state semifinals.
Jensen also thanked his team because in order for him to even have a shot at the honor, his team had to get hot at the right time, something they did towards the end of the district season and into the post season as they won eight of their final nine games.
Jensen won the state’s top coaching honor, but he did not win the District 8-1A Coach of the Year award, which is given to the coach of the district champion. That honor went to Vermilion Catholic’s Danny McMurtry, who led VC to an undefeated district season.
However, on its way to the semifinals, CCHS upset VC, the No. 2 seed, 8-3 in the quarterfinals.
As for the Eagles’ player selections, Barbier finished his sophomore season with a 9-4 overall mark. He had a 3.67 ERA and struck out 61.
“We wanted Bryson from the beginning of the year to be our guy,” Jensen said. “We felt like he had the best stuff on our staff.”
The CCHS coach said that even though Barbier didn’t have his best stuff in his final outings of the season, he continued to win.
“He matured a lot from last year mentally,” Jensen said. “He’s going to be a really good pitcher with the potential to be special. He’s a really good kid.”
Singleton finished the season with a .402 batting average along with 22 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.
“With Josh, you know you’re going to get a really athletic guy that makes some ridiculous catches look so easy,” Jensen said. “He really didn’t find his groove right away, but once he found it, (he was) dangerous. He’s what you call a five-tool guy. He’s a table setter. Our success in the playoffs had to do a lot with his first at bat. The scary thing about Josh is he has the potential to have an even better season next year. I think his best baseball is ahead of him.”
The Eagles’ coach noted that because Singleton had such a reputation as a solid hitter, often times opposing teams would pitch around him.
Courtney made the honorable mention All-State squad even though he finished as a second-team All-District selection.
Jensen said he thought what hurt Courtney in district was that he didn’t play a position in the field. He only served as a designated hitter.
“He just loves baseball,” Jensen said. “(He) really, really, really cares. Our success this year had a lot to do with him. I felt really good for him (for the team to be able to make a playoff run), because I knew it was important for him.”
Laird finished his senior season with a 9-1 record, a 0.72 ERA and batted .474.
Laird was joined on the first team by senior third baseman Zachary Stephenson (.457 average, 26 RBIs) and outfielder Braden Bristo (.371 average, 6-0 pitching record), while OCS first baseman Josh Wilkes was an honorable mention selection.
Vermilion Catholic’s Blair Landry, a utility selection, also made the first team with a .417 batting average, while utility player Ryan Domingue of VC and utility player Kane Fontenot of Ascension Episcopal also made the squad.