Little did he know that roughly two months later, he would see just how talented they could be.
Since the season began, Berwick has been decimated with injuries in key positions as they have lost pitcher Brannon Melancon (arm problems), left fielder Logan Theriot (pulled hamstring) and catcher Ian Bergeron (back problems). Recently, the squad suffered its biggest blow when its ace, Chris Charpentier, injured his arm and will be forced to have Tommy John Surgery to repair the damage.
While it could be cause for concern for most teams, the Panthers, 22-8 overall and District 9-3A co-champs with North Vermilion with identical 10-2 records, have adjusted and expect to continue their success this season as they host Avoyelles High School today at 5 p.m. in Berwick.
Thomas said the success of some reserves has been a key to his team’s success this year.
To compensate for the many losses, the Panthers have inserted Nick Osburn in a variety of positions, while Matt Skelton has returned to catcher where he played the previous two seasons. Anthony Richard has moved to left field, Bobby Boudreaux now plays shortstop and Charpentier, now sporting an arm brace, is playing first base, and can still bat.
On the mound now, sophomore Nick Duthu, who has had a solid sophomore campaign, has moved into the No. 1 position and junior Reed Leonard is the No. 2 pitcher.
“This has been a very good year, not just because we’re 22-8, not just because we’re in the playoffs, but the character of these kids,” Thomas said. “I like this group of kids.”
Thomas said the replacements, along with the core players already in the lineup, appear to be trying to make each other better to make this season, one the Panthers have high hopes for, last as long as possible.
“I think it’s getting to a point where people are trying to play above their head,” Thomas said. “I don’t know this for a fact but (I think) no one wants to disappoint the other.”
Today, Berwick will face an Avoyelles squad that won District 3-3A with a 7-3 mark. Avoyelles is 11-12 overall. Both teams have a common opponent in Berwick’s District 9-3A foe, Erath. Avoyelles lost their lone matchup with Erath, while the Panthers beat Erath in both meetings this season.
While Avoyelles is a No. 23 seed, Thomas doesn’t look at where they are ranked.
“The way we look at it is this is playoff time,” he said. “We got to show up and we got to play to the best of our abilities to give us the best chance to win.
“We did very well in predistrict,” Thomas said. “We did very well in district. Now, we’re 0-0 again. This is a new season. That’s the approach we’re going to have to take.”