ACE- Senior Jamarquea Diamond has been a standout for Kentwood baseball this season. Photo by Jesse Brooks.
By Jesse Brooks
On Thursday, May 3, the No.5 Kentwood Kangaroo baseball team just needed five innings to conquer Logansport 18-4 on the road in a third round victory of the LHSAA 1A postseason.
The rolling Roos have not lost a game since April 21 and are set to face ninth seeded Delta Charter at McMurry Park in Sulphur on Thursday, May 10 at 2 p.m. If the Roos can make it past one more round they will earn their first ever Class 1A State Championship appearance.
Reaching the championship round is a spectacular feat for any team, but it is a particularly impressive achievement for Kentwood High Magnet School considering the program is in the third season of the team’s existence.
To this point, Kentwood has compiled an overall record of 16-13 with a District 6-1A record of 6-6.
Ever since its inception, the team has played a small ball brand of baseball that that specializing in utilizing foot speed to steal bases. The Roos are known for speeding up America’s favorite pastime to post big run totals. This season Kentwood has averaged 5.8 runs per game, and the team also holds a .418 on base percentage.
Offensive leaders for the Roos this year include junior Terrell Hookfin who owns a batting average of .346 and an RBI total of seven, junior Larry Carter with a batting average of .397 and 12 RBI and sophomore Bryce Cooper’s batting average is .373 with an RBI total of seven.
WIND UP- Junior Larry Carter takes the mound for the Kentwood Kangaroos. Photo by Jesse Brooks.
Senior Jamarquea Diamond has served as Kentwood’s ace pitcher. In eight starts, Diamond has posted a 2.79 ERA and leads the bullpen with 55 total strikeouts in the regular season.
Despite never fielding a varsity team prior to the 2016 season, the Roos have been quick in producing successful results. To start the program, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board awarded a $15,000 loan to be paid back with interest to Kentwood High Magnet School. Principal Rochelle Bates initiated the project, recognizing the strong baseball culture of North Tangipahoa Parish. Bates also realized that students in the Kentwood area would either stop playing the sport after they were too old for youth leagues, or would move to other school districts to keep playing.
When the program opened in 2016, Coach Evan Tageant was hired to form a squad that would finish 7-2 overall. The Roos were not eligible for district play or a postseason that year as LHSAA rules state that new programs must wait out their first season as an independent.
Current head coach Taylor Abdalla took over the program the following season after Tageant accepted an offer in Washington Parish. Under Abdalla, the Roos finished 14-11 overall with a district record of 6-6, which was good enough to qualify for the postseason where they were eliminated by Varnado in the second round.
A majority of the junior and senior varsity players are the original members of the program. Most of the athletes show up raw, and those with experience in the sport has resumes limited to youth leagues. Others, like juniors Larry Carter and Trey Palmer, were recruited from the football field. The system Abdalla runs makes it comfortable to bring new players in the fold, and utilizes each athlete’s strengths.
ON A RUN- Junior Trey Palmer looks to round third base for Kentwood. Photo by Jesse Brooks.
The experience of being a member of the team is similar to playing travel ball. The Roos currently do not have their own field. They have spent time practicing on the fields of the Kentwood Baseball Association, but they do not host games there as the fields are not regulation length. In their brief history, they have had “home” games at Independence Rec Park, Fleet Easley Park in Amite and Jewel Sumner High School.
Despite the lack of a home location, the Kentwood Kangaroo faithful will pack any park the team plays and a support system is in place. With the success of the baseball team, the Kentwood community has had a strong year in athletics. Roo football finished LHSAA 1A State Runners Up this season, and the boy’s track team finished third overall in the LHSAA 1A State Track & Field meet.
The championship game for Class 1A will be held on Saturday, May 12 at McMurry Park for 2:30 p.m.