Christian Brothers schools collide as Rummel battles St. Paul’s for baseball state championship

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Rummel pitcher Matt Villa
Rummel pitcher Matt Villa and the Raiders face the St. Paul’s Wolves for the LHSAA Division I baseball title Tuesday in Sulphur (photo: Bill Arthurs).

It will be a family affair when No. 3 St. Paul’s battles No. 4 Archbishop Rummel for the LHSAA Division I state championship Tuesday at 3 p.m. at McMurry Park in Sulphur.

The schools are “brother” schools, as in Christian Brothers, whom both schools are affiliated with. You can certainly call it a friendly rivalry.

The ties that bind run deep.

Brother Richard Kovatch, who works at St. Paul’s now, is a former Rummel student and Rummel principal. Brother John Fairfax has been on the St. Paul’s campus for many years now and is a former principal at Rummel. Brother Timothy Coldwell attended Rummel and ran St. Paul’s for several years. He now serves the Christian Brothers as the General Councilor for the LaSallian region of North America.

Brother Gale Condit worked at Rummel for many years before working at St. Paul’s and returning to Rummel as president recently before stepping down in 2016. He now works at the Christian Brothers School campus.

Then, there are the Rummel graduates who moved north of Lake Pontchartrain and now have sons at St. Paul’s.

In his 19th season, Mick Nunez has St. Paul’s (26-6) is back in the state championship game for a second straight season.

The Wolves lost a tough 2-1 contest to John Curtis Christian in the 2018 state title game in Sulphur. St. Paul’s won the 1999 Class 4A state championship, defeating Woodlawn of Baton Rouge 4-3 in the championship game under Rick Mauldin.

Despite being in the same classification and Division for many years now, Rummel and St. Paul’s have not met since the 2015 regular season when the Raiders won 13-0 at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium on March 19 of that year. The Wolves edged the Raiders 4-3 in 2014 at Segnette Field. St. Paul’s beat Rummel 5-2 at Chalmette in 2013. The Wolves won 8-0 and 10-9 in the 2009 regular season and the two teams split a pair of games at Heap Field in 2008 with the Wolves winning 6-4 and the Raiders winning 9-2.

Nunez is thrilled to have his team back in the championship game.

“I hoped we could get here but you know how the game is,” Nunez said. “I’m not shocked I knew we had the ability to get back here. I’m not surprised that Connor Simon came up big for us. Connor pitched in the quarterfinals in eighth grade and pitched in the title game last year. He’s not lacking experience in big games.”

Nunez had a chance to see Rummel this year but never got to go against the Raiders.

“We were schedule to play Rummel this year and we were rained out,” Nunez said. “It is a bit unusual that we have not played recently. They are a hot team. They are young but they are hot and believe they can win.”

What would it mean for Nunez to win his first championship at St. Paul’s?

“It would mean the world to me and the kids,” Nunez said. “We’ve been hungry. It’s odd to have this many seniors that have played together so long. We have 11 seniors and seven have started for three years now. It’s a special group.”

In his ninth and final season as head coach of the Raiders, Nick Monica has the Raiders in the title game for the first time since 2012, when he guided Rummel to the 5A championship game, falling 3-2 to Barbe. Monica departs the Rummel baseball program to become the head football coach of the storied Raider program this fall, taking over for Jay Roth, who is now concentrating on his duties as athletic director. Roth served 24 years as the head football coach at his alma mater.

It is the 11th title game appearance for the Raiders overall. Rummel (22-12) has won five state titles and finished second five times.

Four of those titles came under Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame inductee Larry Schneider while the fifth came in 1997 under former Raider pitcher Frank Cazeaux, who returns as head coach of the Raiders next season for a second stint as the head coach at his alma mater.

Monica likes his young team, which starts four sophomores and a junior among its starting eight while junior Matt Villa is expected to pitch Tuesday.

“The best part about this group is there is no panic,” Monica said. “They just kept going back to work and going about their business. There has not been any change. It has been a pretty steady group. They never changed attitude or effort. They have matured as the season progressed. Balls started falling in and we have pitched well.

Monica admits he did not know what 2019 would produce for the Raiders.

“We weren’t quite sure what we had coming into the season,” Monica said. “We knew we would be young but we knew we had experience. Our top two arms were coming back from injury. We have guys that have not played to their age and have matured. You had to endure some inconsistent play but what has been fun to watch is how a different guy has stepped up in our win streak.”

There is a healthy amount of respect for the Wolves from the Raiders.

“There is a lot of respect on both sides,” Monica said. “They are a senior-laden team. They have much experience coming back as anyone. They were the most experienced team in the tournament. That helps any team and coach with leadership. They played in this game last year. We understand how good they are.”

Monica is sure of one thing.

“One way or another, Tuesday will be a very good day for Christian Brothers schools,” Monica said. “We are well represented. I just hope we are the ones to be the happiest.”

Nunez concurs.

“We have teachers who have taught at Rummel, parents whose sons went there and administrators who have ties to the school,” Nunez said. “It is a close relationship. I don’t mind another close game if we can win it.”

You can listen to the Rummel broadcast of the game live on ESPN 100.3 FM and at ESPN1003.com. The game will also air live on CST.

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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