LAFAYETTE — Acadiana High School was seeking redemption for a year-old wound, and it found some Monday afternoon against rival Lafayette High.
A year after Lafayette High (23-10) knocked off Acadiana (19-15) to advance to the state quarterfinals, the Rams returned the favor in a 5-4 series-clinching win against the second-seeded Lions at Louisiana-Lafayette’s M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
“You don’t get a chance at redemption like that very often against your biggest rival,” said first-year Acadiana coach Matt McCullough. “Coming into the series, you’ve got a chance to change what happened last year.”
Acadiana pounded out nine hits and five runs in the first five innings, then held on as Lafayette made its late push.
Chad Romero entered in the sixth inning and held the Lions off the board for the final two innings, sending the Rams into a raucous celebration when he struck out Seth Duiga to slam the door shut on the win.
The Rams set the stage for that party immediately with a three-run first inning that came on the strength of four consecutive hits, including back-to-back run-scoring doubles, off Lions right-hander Joseph Battaglia.
“They put four hits together in the first inning,” Lafayette coach Sam Taulli said. “We just came out flat early and allowed them to get three up on the board. That put us behind and that was the whole game right there.”
The Lions couldn’t get anything going against Acadiana right-hander Tyler Cormier early in the game, picking up just two hits through the game’s first three innings.
“We didn’t have much success at the plate early on, we were getting out on our front foot,” Taulli said.
When they did get baserunners, the Lions weren’t able to bring them home. They bounced into an inning-ending double play with two on in the first inning, then Cain Castille was caught stealing a moment before a triple to left-center field by Tyler Miller in the third.
But Acadiana would make sure Lafayette got another crack. A pair of critical errors led directly to four runs to let the Lions get right back in the game in the fourth and fifth innings.
A hit by pitch and an infield single put two Lions runners aboard with nobody out in the fourth inning, but after two quick outs it looked like another Lions rally would fizzle when Andrew Lege grounded back to the pitcher.
But Cormier’s throw sailed over the first baseman’s glove, allowing the first two Lions runs to cross the plate as the ball rolled into foul territory in right field.
After Castille drew a leadoff walk to start the fifth inning, Miller hit a sharp single to left field. It quickly turned into a race for the plate when Acadiana left fielder Collin Dugas let the ball slip under his glove and roll to the wall.
Miller circled the bases in a blink, and his head-first slide came in ahead of the throw as he pulled the Lions within a run.
“They’re not going to lay down, that’s one thing about that group,” Taulli said. “They will battle you.”
The important thing, McCullough said, was that his team still had the lead and it didn’t focus on the mistakes that caused most of that lead to disappear. The Rams regained their focus, and Romero came on to shut down Lafayette for the final two innings.
The Lions brought the meat of their order up to the plate in the seventh inning, and after a single by Emile Lege to lead the inning off, they had the tying run at first base. Romero did not allow him to advance any further.
That’s not to say there wasn’t a little drama. Miguel Reyes yanked a laser down the left field line that looked destined to tie the game, but Dugas made up for his gaffe earlier in the game by chasing it down for a loud second out.
Romero then struck out Duiga to send the Rams into the quarterfinals, where they will face Ruston.
“We got their best hitters out to end the game,” McCullough said. “That was a tremendous job by Chad.”