SULPHUR — St. John slugger Landon Leblanc worked it to a 3-2 count in a duel with Ascension Catholic’s Charlie Gianelloni. There were two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with a runner on base.
Leblanc, who came into the game with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs, fouled off four straight pitches. Gianelloni reared back and threw one last fastball outside.
Gianelloni then ran toward home plate and caught Leblanc's pop up in fair territory, clinching Ascension Catholic’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory over District 6-1A rival St. John in the Division IV title game Friday at the LHSAA baseball tournament.
“When we went down, I knew it was going to be a long game,” Gianelloni said. “It is just amazing. We never gave up, and we came back from that. That’s the type of team we are. It was a rivalry game and a championship game, but I just had to calm myself down and throw strikes. That was a long at-bat.”
Gianelloni got the win in relief for the third-seeded Bulldogs (29-9) and also was the title-game MVP. ACHS ended its season on an incredible 19-game winning streak also won 23 of its final 24 games.
It is the first baseball title for Ascension Catholic in 24 years. Top-seeded St. John (33-6-1), which set a school record for wins, made its first title-game appearance in 15 years.
“We came out the very first inning and put a two spot up there and I thought our pitcher, Reece Barrilleaux, did a very good job,” St. John coach Jason Kinchen said. “We just couldn’t quite find our groove hitting after that first inning. We scratched just to be able to tie it up. Hats off to Ascension Catholic. They did a heck of a job coming back. That last at-bat with Landon … it was just a quarter of inch away from walking off with a win. But that’s baseball.”
Brock Acosta finished 2-for-3 for ACHS. Adam Theriot had two RBIs for St. John. SJHS starter Barrilleaux and ACHS’ Gianelloni were key players for their teams. Both teams loaded the bases in the first inning, but Barrilleaux worked out the jam and took a no-hitter into the fourth.
Gianelloni was a pivotal part of the Ascension Catholic offense and pitching/defense. The Bulldogs benefitted from the fact he did not go over his pitch limit in a short appearance in Wednesday's semifinal win over Ouachita Christian.
St. John scored twice in the bottom of the first, thanks to a two-run hit from Theriot that scored Collin Barbee and LeBlanc.
Ascension Catholic took the lead with three runs in the sixth. Gianelloni’s RBI double that scored Mason Zeringue was a key play. St. John tied it in the bottom of the sixth, when Justin Rivet singled and later scored on an error.
Rodney Blanchard’s single to right field with one out brought William Dunn in to score the winning run with one out in the top of the seventh.
“To win 23 of the last 24 games is a great tribute to these kids,” ACHS coach Todd Landry said. “When these two teams get together it is always a great game. First of all my hat is off to coach Kinchen and St. John. What a tremendous season they had. I’m so proud of our kids and the resiliency they showed all year.”