GONZALES — With exactly one inning of varsity experience to his credit, Catholic High pitcher Will Hopkins went to coach Brad Bass with a proposal.
In an effort to try and crack the Bears’ rotation, Hopkins suggested reinventing himself, transitioning from a traditional over-the-top pitcher to a drop-down, sidearm delivery.
With East Ascension breathing down Catholic High’s collective neck, trailing by two runs with the bases loaded and one out, Hopkins was summoned from the bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, and the 5-foot-7 senior promptly recorded the final two outs to help nail down a 10-8 victory Thursday evening.
“This is the definitely the toughest situation I was thrown into,” said Hopkins, who earned his fourth save of the year. “There’s no more pressure than that. You’ve just got to do your job and throw it in there.”
Hopkins’ heroics enabled Catholic (31-3, 9-1) to win for the 10th straight time, apply the finishing touches on its District 5-5A championship and lock up a No. 2 seed for next week’s Class 5A state playoffs.
“They’re the toughest group we’ve played to date, and that’s no disrespect to anyone we’ve played,” Bass said of EA. “They fought hard all the way until the end, but our guys fought, too. When these guys get backed into a corner, I love where they’re at. I’m real proud of their effort.”
The last-ditch effort for EA (15-16, 6-4) was indicative of a team fighting for its postseason lives, trying to hold on to a No. 29 seed in next week’s 32-team field.
Relief pitcher Austin McInnis was the catalyst in keeping the Spartans’ chances alive with sterling three-hit relief over 5.2 innings for starter Tristan Babin with eight strikeouts. It was his bases-clearing double in the sixth that accounted for the final score.
“We knew it was going to be tough being down seven, but what do you have to lose,” EA coach Britt Waguespack said. “We tell them seven innings, and that’s what he got. I’m proud of my team.”
Catholic opened a 10-3 lead, batting around in the second inning to score eight times on four hits — highlighted by Simon Prevot’s three-run triple off McInnis to the right-center gap.
Winning pitcher Kyle Candilora (6-1) settled down after a 35-pitch first inning and left with a 10-4 lead after four innings. He allowed six hits, four runs, walked three and struck out three.
EA, which had 12 hits, scored single runs in the fourth on consecutive triples from Babin (3-for-5) and Hayden Adams (3-5) and tacked on another run in the fifth Ben Thompson’s single.
Freshman reliever Austin Andrishok nearly got out of a no out, bases-loaded situation in the sixth with two straight strikeouts before McInnis’ double to the wall in left field.
Hopkins entered with the bases loaded and one out to strikeout clean-up hitter Cole Holley on a two-seam fastball and got designated hitter Jorda Leblanc to ground out to second baseman Bo Branch.
“He’s been doing it all year for us,” Bass said. “He’s pitched in some other big games. The guys throws strikes; he competes and tonight seemed to be his night.”