Sacred Heart’s Garrett Fontenot stands ready at the plate awaiting a pitch from the Ouachita Christian pitcher while teammate JT Harper takes a lead off of first base. Sacred Heart lost the first two games of the three game series with the Eagles in the LHSAA Division IV state quarterfinals in Monore. (Gazette photo by Yvette Jagneaux)
Toe to toe
MONROE – It may not have been the outcome the Sacred Heart baseball team wanted, but the Trojans made a huge statement, standing toe to toe with the No. 1 team in the state, the Ouachita Christian Eagles in the Division IV quarterfinal playoff series.
Despite losing two out of three games to the Eagles, Sacred Heart took it right to Ouachita Christian, falling 2-1 in game one on Friday and 9-3 in game two on Sunday. In Sunday’s game, the Trojans trailed 5-0 after the top of the fifth and scored three runs to put a scare in the Eagles.
Sacred Heart finishes the season with an overall record of 19-14-1 even after playing one of the toughest schedules in the state in Class 1A/Division IV.
After Sunday’s game, Sacred Heart head coach Gary Ashworth showed the pride he felt in his team’s performance during the series and the season.
“We were right there in the middle of the ring with the No. 1 team in the state battling blow for blow,” stated Ashworth. “I am so proud of the way we competed. In the days leading up to the series, I challenged the players not to be intimidated and to come out and fight. We showed that in the way we played. We just came up a few hits short.”
“I am super proud of the season we put together,” Ashworth continued. “There were times when things could have gone south and the players just kept plugging away. One of the reasons for our success over the past few years has been the seniors. They are complete bulldogs on the field. Off the field they are great people. I cannot wait to see them become adults. It is hard to see them go.”
The series began Friday afternoon under perfect weather conditions and proved to be a pitcher’s duel right from the start. Over the first four innings of play, both Sacred Heart’s Kyle Miller and Ouachita Christian’s Ty Pankey made their presence known on the mound, sitting down batter after batter. During that time only six combined runners reached base between the two teams.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles finally notched a pair of runs to gain the early advantage. Crew Wilson drew a two out walk and moved to second on a base hit by Gavin Sherpard. Britton Mulhorn followed with a single, plating Wilson and Sherpard putting Ouachita Christian up by two runs.
Sacred Heart scrapped together enough offense in the top of the sixth to cut the Eagle’s in half. JT Harper doubled to lead off the inning. A ground ball to second base recorded the first out but moved Harper over to third base. Christian Duplechin’s ground out to shortstop was deep enough to score Harper, making it a 2-1 game.
The Trojans tried to tie the game in the top of the seventh, getting a runner to third base. However, they could not produce enough offense to bring home the tying run.
Game two was scheduled to be played on Saturday at 1 p.m. But, mother nature would just not cooperate, washing out any chance of playing when Monroe was deluged with rain. That rain out pushed the second game of the series to early Sunday afternoon.
Taking the role of the home team for game two, Sacred Heart fell behind 1-0 after one inning of play. Ouachita Christian tacked on another run in the top of the third to go up 2-0.
Meanwhile offensively, the Trojans did manage to get runners in scoring position in both the second and third innings. Sacred Heart, as they did for most of the series, could not come up with the timely hit to put any runs across the board.
The Eagles picked up two more runs in the top of the fourth on a two run homer from Wilson. After holding the Trojans scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, Ouachita Christian plated a single run in the top of the fifth to make it a 5-0 game.
Sacred Heart was finally able to put together enough offense to put themselves back in the game. Peyton Feutch walked to lead off the at bat and moved to second on a wild pitch.
After a fly ball out to left field, Alec Gotro doubled, scoring Feutch. Harper singled, moving Gotro to third base. With runners on the corners and two outs following a ground out to third base, Duplechin, Gabe Fontenot and Connor Bordelon drew back-to-back-to- back walks, plating Gotro and Harper, cutting the Eagle lead down to two, 5-3. Unfortunately, the Trojans could not make more of their opportunity and failed to push another run across the plate.
The Eagles finished out the game in the top of the seventh by hauling in four additional runs, putting the game and the series away.
“We are already making plans for next season,” said Ashworth. “We are going to play some summer ball with our underclassmen and get them the experience they need for 2020. I believe we have some great talent coming back and I cannot wait to see how they will perform this summer together.”