LAFAYETTE — A blast and a bouncer finally gave the Barbe High School Bucs a way to break loose from a pride of lions.
Two hits in the top of the seventh inning enabled Barbe to ensure a 7-6 comeback win over Lafayette on Saturday in Game 3 of their Class 5A baseball quarterfinal playoff series.
The blast came with Barbe trailing 6-5 in the final contest in the series that was tied 1-1. Shane Selman sent a pitch over the left-field wall with one out to even the score at 6-6. Slate Fuller followed that with a walk and pinch-runner Bryan Lawrence was able to move into scoring position by stealing second base.
Lawrence later moved to third on an infield grounder. That is when the bouncer came into play. With the Lions playing in at the corners to guard against a bunt from Barbe third baseman Kirkland Banks, he bounced a chopper into left field to bring in the lead run.
Barbe pitcher Tyler Booth was able to retire the Lions’ top of the lineup in order in the bottom of the seventh to send the Bucs to the state tournament in Sulphur.
“In my 29 years of coaching, I have never seen a better series,” Barbe coach Glenn Cecchini said. “I have so much respect for Lafayette ... respect for their pitchers. (Emile) Lege battled today. These teams are so similar. It felt like we were playing against ourselves. They put pressure on us just like we put pressure on them.”
The Lions erased most of a 5-0 Barbe lead in the finale by putting up four runs in bottom of the third. The final blow during that rally was a two-run single to center by Bo Hardin. Neither team made any more progress until the fifth inning when Lafayette first baseman Hudson Laborde launched a 2-run homer to left to change the score to 6-5 in favor of the Lions. That comeback helped Lege work his way into a rhythm, as he silenced Barbe until the seventh. “Emile was all over the place (early) and we tried to get him through it,” Lafayette coach Sam Taulli said.
The Bucs looked like they might end the series much earlier when they jumped on top in Game 2 by a 10-3 margin. However, the Lions shaved a run off that deficit before an eight-run effort in the fifth inning vaulted them ahead 12-10.
Lafayette right fielder Ben Reynolds supplied a big chunk of that rally by hitting his first home run — a grand slam that pulled the Lions within 10-8. A three-run double by Branson Audette put Lafayette ahead for good in that second game when they were trailing 1-0 in the series thanks to Barbe’s 3-2 victory in the opener Friday. Lafayette took the second game 15-13 to set the stage for the finish.
“I knew it would be a battle, but I didn’t think we would get down 10-3, go up 15-10 and then hang on,” Taulli said.
Barbe (30-10) will face District 3-5A rival Sulphur in the semifinals. Lafayette finished its season 27-10.
After Taulli credited Barbe for “feeling like they are never out of it,” he pondered the fact that his squad had come back from both a seven-run and a five-run deficit to push Barbe to the limit. “Our kids are fantastic,” he added.