District 7-2A rivals hope to get chance to play again; first, Runnels, Doyle need to take care of semifinal foes _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Runnels baseball coach Tookie Johnson watches his team take batting practice during practice Tuesday.

Runnels coach Tookie Johnson said he feels like the District 7-2A rivalry between the Raiders and Doyle brings out the best in both teams. If so, that dynamic could lead to a third meeting between the pair in the Class 2A state championship game.

Top-seed Doyle (23-5) and No. 2 Runnels (19-4) advanced on different sides of the playoff bracket to the semifinals of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament at Sulphur’s McMurry Park.

Runnels will play No. 3 Oak Grove (20-7) at noon while Doyle faces No. 4 Kinder at 1 p.m., with both games Friday.

“It’s a friendly rivalry,” Johnson said. “We usually both play at the top of our game when we meet. I’d love to see them in the state championship game. That would mean one of us will go home with a state championship trophy.”

Doyle and Runnels have played six games in recent seasons with each team claiming three wins. The quality of play has left an impression on Doyle coach Tim Beatty.

“I don’t know if it’s a rivalry. It’s just been two good teams playing each other, and its always been a good game,” Beatty said. “I think (a championship rematch) would be a great thing just for our district.”

“That’s what we’re looking for. I’ve already got Runnels penciled in for the championship game.”

Both teams are making a return trip to the state tournament after missing in recent years. Runnels hasn’t been since winning a Class B title in 2008. Doyle’s last trip was 2001, when it finished as the Class B runner-up.

Two years ago, Runnels suffered an early exit despite having current LSU pitcher Alden Cartwright and Northwestern State pitcher Josh Morris on its roster. Last season, Runnels knocked out Doyle in the first round before losing in the quarterfinals.

Shortstop Johnny Johnson leads the Runnels offense batting .430 with seven homers and 31 RBIs, all team highs. Southern signee Josh Sparks (.375), Hampton Hudson (.362), Thomas Myers (.347) and Emory Monet (.354) are other top hitters.

On the mound, Runnels has Centenary signee Hunter Amedee, who is 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA. Sparks (3-0, 2.74) also sees time on the mound.

Doyle is led by seven seniors, and will start either Hilton Savoy (8-1, 1.22) or Tyler Pigott (9-1, 0.89) against Kinder. The Tigers’ hitting is paced by Trey Fontenot (.321), Justin Ridgedale (.301), Blaine Oubre (.307) and Daniel Palmer (293).