EUNICE — The site of two Christian Life Academy infielders desperately scrambling to catch a rapidly dropping ball in shallow right field marked the final glimpse of the Crusaders’ baseball season Tuesday night.
St. Edmund center fielder Austin Sittig’s plummeting hit down the line with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the final run in a 6-5 Christian Life loss during a Class 1A regional playoff game at North Park.
“Unfortunately for us the ball was fair. It was a tough ending. When you have two evenly-matched teams and evenly-matched pitchers in a game like this, something had to give.
“It was one of the best games that I have ever been involved in,” Crusaders coach Jonathan Causey said.
The win puts St. Edmund (19-8) against either No. 2 Sacred Heart or 18th-seeded Crescent City at Metairie’s Mike Miley Park.
CLA (19-12) reached the regional round after winning a first playoff game in seven years against No. 23 Country Day.
Causey said St. Edmund game featured a tenacious seven-inning pitching battle between CLA’s Michael Stinson and Drew Brown of St. Edmund.
Brown and Stinson, who combined for 21 strikeouts in wins last week, were out of innings by the end of the seventh, said Causey.
Brown struck out eight. Stinson had seven strikeouts.
“He (Brown) was still under a hundred pitches, but he was out of innings. We were warming up Hans (Redlich) who was ready to come during the eighth in relief,” St. Edmund coach Scott Richard said.
Richard compared the duel between Richard and Stinson to a pair of heavyweights trading punches.
“That’s exactly what it was. (Brown) didn’t have his best stuff. He fought like a bulldog, though. He battled.
“We had Stinson over 100 (pitches) by the sixth, but he also kept battling. He was as tough as we heard he was,” Richard said.
Richard said Sittig, the Jays’ eighth batter in the lineup, was allowed to swing freely, since he already had one strike.
It was also Sittig’s only hit of the contest.
The leads changed several times.
St. Edmund led 1-0 after the first, but CLA took a 2-1 third-inning lead. The game evened at two in the bottom of the third, and SEHS pushed ahead 3-2 with another run in the fourth.
St. Edmund held a two-run advantage after the fifth, but the Crusaders tied the game at five in the top of the sixth.
“We thought we had it when it was 5-3, but they came back on us,” Richard said.
A two-base, infield throwing error in the bottom of the seventh with none out gave the Jays a lead runner in scoring position.
That threat was nullified when an attempted bunt by St. Edmund third baseman Alex Hunt was fielded quickly by Stinson, who threw out the lead runner (Gibson Lafleur) at third.
CLA third baseman Brock Sampite fielded another grounder for an unassisted second out in the seventh.
Hunt, who moved to third on the fielder’s choice, scored the winning run on the Sittig blooper.
After the Jays scored the first run on a Lafleur single, CLA grabbed a 2-1 lead.
Center fielder Jacob Williams doubled with one out and scored on a Daniel Fox single. Sampite, who reached first on an outfield error, scored on a fielder’s choice.
The Crusaders tied it at three after a Davis Alford double scored right fielder Garret Smith.
St. Edmund battered Stinson in the sixth for two runs after three consecutive base hits.
Brown led off the inning with a triple and scored on Lafleur’s double. Lafleur crossed the plate on a double by shortstop Drake Brunet.