Forgetting the past: Delta Charter reflects on improvements, headed to semifinals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Chris Stapleton blared over the loudspeakers at the Delta Charter School baseball field.

Junior outfielder Freddie Mango stepped underneath the batting cage Tuesday afternoon. The Storm’s head coach Jarrett Hoffpauir was on the mound throwing pitches Mango’s way.

At first Mango hits a few grounders, then some balls into the outfield and even hit a near home run — landing just in front of the leftfield wall.

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After the hit, Mango walked toward the sideline to his teammates. He had a serious look on his face. In fact, every Delta Charter player had  determined looks on their faces because they are focused for what is coming on Thursday — a matchup against Kentwood High School in Sulphur, Louisiana in the LHSAA Class 1A State Semifinals, after upsetting the No. 1 seed LaSalle, 9-2, last week.

“I’m anxious … I wouldn’t say nervous is the word,” Hoffpauir said. “I’m ready to play. I’m sure the team is too. I think we have a good mindset. I think if we go in with the mindset that we are good and ready, we will be fine.”

While the Storm are all business preparing for Sulphur, at one point this season, they thought being in this position would never have seemed possible.

Earlier this year, Delta Charter wasn’t playing like a team. As senior shortstop Trenton Miller put it, the Storm wasn’t playing for one another.

But that all changed after Delta Charter’s 6-2 loss to Rayville midway through the season.

“We didn’t play very well,” Hoffpauir said. “We just kind of went through the motions that game. I think we just expected to win just by showing up.”

In the loss against Rayville, the Storm only recorded three hits while giving up seven and tallying three errors. After, Hoffpauir gave his opinion to the team on how the season was going up until that point.

“It wasn’t good,” Miller said. “He just told us that he wasn’t even sure if we were prepared enough to be in the playoffs or even be a playoff team.”

Even though Hoffpauir’s speech at the time wasn’t pleasant in Miller’s mind, he is happy his coach said what he said because it was what Delta Charter needed in Miller’s eyes.

“We got together as a team at the perfect time,” Miller said. “I’m glad we did. We started to go down hill, but then we bonded and came together as a team.

“That got in the guys heads and made us want to win more.”

Hoffpauir credited the five Storm seniors to the team’s turnaround.

Earlier this year, Hoffpauir challenged to get upperclassman leadership. But after the Rayville game, seniors such as Miller, Drake Smith and Chase Gillespie took it upon themselves to provide the leadership that the Storm were previously lacking.

“At the start of the season, when we were losing, we didn’t have that great of leadership,” Miller said. “We were just like whatever. But when (Hoffpauir) brought it upon us, we started having leadership. We just tried to do what we can. We just tried to let the younger guys know how it is.”

While Delta Charter is appreciative of the past, it is now only focusing on the present, Hoffpauir said.

The mindset this week for the Storm is there are no redos. It can’t take any innings, pitches or hits backs. It is completely focused on Kentwood, who Hoffpauir said is like Delta Charter — it uses its speed and athleticism to put pressure on its opponents.

The Storm will be heading to Sulphur today to get a practice on the astroturf they will be playing on, which is the opposite of the grassfield they are used to competing on at home. However, Delta Charter isn’t too worried about the different terrain.

“Everything is going to be a little faster on that turf,” Hoffpauir said. “The ball is going to get to you quicker. The hops are going to be truer, but I think there won’t be any advantages or disadvantages for anybody. Nobody plays on it during the year. It’s astroturf. It’s not that big of a deal.”

The biggest deal of the season comes Thursday against Kentwood and a chance to compete for a state championship. And just like every player’s face at practice Tuesday, the Storm seem ready to take on their semifinal foes.

“Can’t wait,” Miller said. “We are ready.”

First pitch against Kentwood is scheduled for 2 p.m.