The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute
Central Catholic High School held a signing ceremony Wednesday for three students who will continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level. Trent Hillen (baseball) and Haley Fontenot (softball) have signed to continue their careers with Nicholls State, while Caleb Menina (baseball) will continue his playing days at the University of New Orleans. From left are Hillen, Fontenot and Menina.
Submitted Photo/Berwick High School
Berwick High School’s Lay Bertrand signed with Jackson State Community College. From left are Berwick High School Athletic Director Mike Walker, Berwick assistant girls basketball coach Derek Ribardi, Bertrand, Berwick girls basketball coach Abigail Ohlin and teammate Bronwyn Colbert.
Four local athletes sign letters
Four Tri-City area prep standouts recently signed scholarship papers in three sports to continue their playing careers at the next level.
Central Catholic held a signing ceremony Wednesday for two baseball signees — Trent Hillen with Nicholls and Caleb Menina with the University of New Orleans — and Haley Fontenot, a Nicholls softball signee. On Nov. 13, Berwick’s Lay Bertrand signed with Jackson State Community College in Jackson, Tennessee.
Below are summaries of the signees.
Hillen will become the second Central Catholic pitcher in as many years to sign with Nicholls as next year he will join Luke Barbier, a freshman on this year’s squad.
“It’s a great feeling. It’s a really good accomplishment,” Hillen said of being able to continue his career, noting he has worked hard to get where he is now.
He said he considered a few schools, and his other option would have been the University of New Orleans. However, he said he picked Nicholls, which is closer to home.
He said that the Colonels have told him he will have the opportunity to pitch as a freshman.
Central Catholic baseball coach Tyler Jensen said Hillen has high velocity.
“Last year he had become more polished. He had thrown more strikes,” Jensen said, estimating Hillen’s strikeout to walk ratio was around 11:1. “So for him that was the big thing, to cut down on the walks. That was big for him. This summer he was up to 92 (mph), which obviously is a big number.”
Hillen will have an up close look at the expectations that await him with his former teammate Barbier at college now.
“It’s really good because I have somebody that I know there, and so it should be a lot easier,” Hillen said. “I can just go in, and if I need help, anything, he’s there, and we may roommate together.”
In a shortened 2020 season, he threw 17 innings and finished 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA and 34 strikeouts.
In 2019, he finished 5-3 with a 2.35 ERA and 72 strikeouts.
Menina is the second Central Catholic pitcher this year to sign a Division 1 scholarship, joining Hillen in the Southland Conference but at an opposing school, the University of New Orleans.
Menina said it is a good feeling to be able to continue his baseball career.
He said he is being looked at as a reliever on the next level.
“Say we’re in a tight position and our starting pitcher, he’s getting kind of tired,” Menina said. “I would go in the bullpen, warm up and just come in the game and maybe throw 1-2 innings, and that’ll be it.”
Jensen said the recruiting process was frustrating for Menina, who he called “a steal” because he said Menina didn’t get the attention he deserved or need early on.
However, Jensen said this summer, colleges finally realized his talent.
Jensen said Menina works hard and is a good person.
“He’s the definition of a kid that whatever you tell him to do, he’s going to do it to the best of his ability,” Jensen said.
Menina said it will be fun to compete against other former Central Catholic players in the Southland Conference. As of next year, Central Catholic will have Bryce Grizzaffi at Southeastern Louisiana University and Barbier and Hillen at Nicholls State.
The signings of Hillen and Menina make four Southland Conference signings in three seasons for Central Catholic in baseball.
“That’s saying a lot about what’s going on here, but it’s saying a lot about the work ethic of our kids” too, Jensen said.
A year ago, in an abbreviated season, Menina finished 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 17 innings of work.
In 2019, he finished 5-3 with a 3.38 ERA and 64 strikeouts.
Fontenot will continue a local pipeline of softball players at Nicholls State.
While former Central Catholic standout Megan Landry signed with the Colonels a few years ago and since has exhausted her eligibility, Morgan City alum Kennedy Hebert is now playing for the Colonels.
Fontenot will join Hebert at Nicholls next year.
The senior Central Catholic standout said playing college softball has been a dream of hers, and Nicholls has been the place she always has wanted to play.
“Nicholls was always the school that I wanted to go to,” she said. “That was my top choice.”
She said she may play in the outfield for the Colonels.
Former Central Catholic coach Joe Russo, who coached Fontenot at the beginning of her prep career, said Nicholls is fortunate to have Fontenot join their program.
“When I saw her as an eighth grader, I told her parents, ‘she’ll be signing one day,’” Russo said. “Her speed was unbelievable, and unfortunately, I wasn’t here for a lot of her seasons when she got older and developed. But she really developed into a fine young lady and a very fine softball player, so I’m very proud of her.”
As a sophomore in 2019, Fontenot finished the season with a .479 batting average. She had 45 hits, including 14 doubles, three triples and seven home runs. Fontenot collected 37 RBIs, scored 51 runs, had a .915 slugging percentage and was a perfect 39-for-39 in stolen bases.
Heading into her senior season, Fontenot said she would be working on leadership.
“I want to work on leadership probably because I’m going to have a young team, and when I get to Nicholls, I want to be a bigger player,” she said. “I want to step up.”
Russo sees big things ahead for her in college.
“I think she’ll be a standout. No doubt, in my opinion,” he said.
Berwick High standout Bertrand is believed to be making history at Berwick as possibly the school’s first girls basketball signee.
“That’s big over here,” Berwick assistant coach Derek Ribardi said. “I can’t even remember when a girls basketball player got a scholarship over here or went and played next level basketball.”
Ribardi said he has checked around, and while Berwick has had players that could have signed in girls basketball in the past, they chose softball.
Bertrand, who signed with the Jackson, Tennessee-based college on Nov. 13, said she will play point guard or will be a shooting guard at the next level.
“It’s good she’s going to the next level, because this is a struggling program, and her going over there is going to be great for her,” Ribardi said of the junior college, which he said has had success in recent years.
A year ago, Bertrand had per-game averages of 25.8 points, 2.6 assists, 6.2 rebounds, 6.6 steals and 0.7 blocks.
Bertrand said she was thankful for Ribardi for helping her continue her hoops career.
She said when she transferred to Berwick, he told her he would help her continue her career if she worked hard.
“He kept that promise,” Ribardi said.
She said playing college basketball has been a goal of hers.
“I’ve been playing basketball since I was a kid, so that’s always been my dream,” she said. “So last Friday was a big deal for me, a big moment for me. I’m just very, very thankful and honored that I got this opportunity to continue my career in basketball.”