COVINGTON — On paper, the Covington and New Iberia baseball teams were as close as they could be, with Covington holding the 16th seed and the Yellow Jackets ranked 17th in the Class 5A playoffs.
But in their bidistrict playoff held Wednesday at Jimmy “Doc” Davis Field, Covington proved to be the better team. Despite stranding 10 base runners against New Iberia, the Lions won 8-1.
Covington (26-6) will travel to face defending state champion Barbe in a regional playoff.
Covington starting pitcher John Schaffer had a lot to do with the Lions advancing in the playoffs. The senior right-hander threw a complete game and allowed only four hits. He threw 90 pitches and had four strikeouts. The only walk he allowed came to lead off the sixth inning.
Schaffer (9-3) impressed at the plate, as well, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
“He had a great game all around,” said Covington coach Jeff Dragg.
“He’s been our horse for two years now, and he throws two pitches over for strikes, sometimes three. He pounded the kneecaps and just was really sharp.”
Schaffer said it was important to get the playoffs off to a good start. After all, Barbe awaits.
“We had to have a good game here,” Schaffer said. “We know what’s coming up. I think we have momentum, and that we’re ready.”
New Iberia (25-6) struck first with a run in the first inning. B.J. Landry reached on an error by second baseman Bryce Laird and advanced to second on groundout. T.J. Jones dribbled a single into center field, and Landry raced home to give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead.
Covington answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the frame. Austin Daix walked and Tyler Smith doubled. Bryce Laird was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Schaffer scored Daix and Smith with a liner down the left-field line. A double play ended the inning and stymied further scoring.
Covington stranded seven base runners through three innings. The Lions loaded the bases in the second inning courtesy of three walks by New Iberia starter Jacob Polk, but Polk coaxed a strikeout to end that threat. The Lions left another two runners on in the third inning but managed a run on an RBI-single by Kolby Caldwell that scored Zach Thompson.
The Lions began moving more runners around and took a 7-1 lead in the fourth. Smith started the four-run outburst with a single. Laird reached on an error, Thompson walked and Schaffer stroked a double that ran to the left-field wall and scored two. Caldwell scored another runner with a fielder’s choice. Covington added another run in the fifth.
New Iberia’s next-best scoring chance came in the top of the sixth, when the Yellow Jackets got their two first runners on base. But Schaffer countered, forcing two groundouts and a fly ball to get out of the inning.
Dragg said his team can’t strand runners against Barbe as it did Wednesday against New Iberia.
“Sure, we didn’t get a lot of big hits early. ... But we hung in there, and I was proud of that,” he said. “We’ll need timely hits and good pitching to keep moving ahead in the playoffs.”