SULPHUR – Maybe next year.
Brusly reached the Class 3A “Final Eight” a second consecutive year, but once again the semifnal round marked the end of the road.
This time, superb pitching figured as the roadblock in Brusly’s road to the championship as eventual state champ Evangel defeated Brusly 3-0 in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association baseball championship tournament Friday at McMurry Park in Sulphur, La.
Evangel pitching ace Blake Buckman, in a complete game, struck out nine, walked three and allowed only three hits to put a halt to Brusly’s stellar season.
The No. 6-seeded Panthers ended their season 23-9. Class 3A newcomer Evangel, the No. 2 seed, emerged from a 4-0 deficit to defeat longtime nemesis John Curtis 6-4 for the 3A state title.
Brusly head coach Tait Dupont, while disappointed in the outcome, said he had no complaints after the semifinal loss.
“Two semifinal appearances in a row is nothing to hold your head down about,” Dupont said. “Our senior class got us here the last two years, and now we are looking for our juniors to do the same thing. The way our program is now, we shouldn’t be rebuilding, we are reloading.”
The first score of the game, in the third, helped Evangel break a three-inning stalemate – and runs in the fifth and sixth innings helped push them toward victory.
Evangel posted its first run in the top of the third when a Ryne Ray single to left brought home Miller Parker, who had hammered a triple to center.
Hunter Shaw padded the Eagle lead in the fifth off a bases-loaded walk.
“I was just glad to see we got out of a bases-loaded situation with only one run,” Dupont said.
Evangel Coach Tim Hulett, meanwhile, said he believed the bases-loaded walk took steam from the Panthers.
“Anytime you’re in a situation like that when neither team is getting many runs and you see it would now take two runs to get ahead, it’s frustrating,” he said.
Chance DeFriend chalked the final run off in the sixth when he beat the throw to home amid a double play.
A Kwanstan Adkins leadoff single to third and a Blake Manola walk in the top of the first put the Panthers in position for an early lead, but the scoring opportunity fizzled when Evangel third baseman, DeFriend, stopped Adkins on a steal attempt at third and Buckman struck out Evan Daigle and Luke LeBlanc to retire the side.
The Panthers stopped Evangel with one runner left on base when Luke LeBlanc tagged out Buckman on first after a dropped first strike.
Brusly missed another opportunity when an Austin Watts line-out to first stranded senior Landon Andre, who reached base on a line-drive single to center.
The stalemate continued in the bottom of the second when second baseman Beau Witty connected with LeBlanc for a double play, followed by a Hunter Shaw ground-out to shortstop that left John Michael Boswell at second to end the inning.
The Panthers next at-bat ended once more with a runner stranded after a Daigle ground-out to short ended the inning. Witty led off with a walk, but Buckman struck out Adkins and Manola.