Facing a talented opponent in the playoffs is tough enough. But when you play a talented team on a mission, things get even harder.
That’s what the Archbishop Hannan baseball team learned Thursday evening in a Class 2A bidistrict playoff game against Redemptorist.
Despite being the higher seed, Hannan fell to Redemptorist 6-3 to end the Hawks’ season at Coquille Sports Complex near Covington. Meanwhile, Redemptorist, which will close after this school year after 67 years of operation in Baton Rouge, lives to play another day.
The 19th seeded Wolves will face the Oak Grove-Mamou winner in a regional playoff.
“I told my guys all week that you’re playing a school that has extra motivation,” said Hannan coach Gary “Boomer” Nunez. “You’re fighting a two-headed monster that’s going to be tough to beat. They have nothing to lose with the school closing but don’t take anything away from (Redemptorist.) That’s not a 19 seed. That’s a better team than 19.”
Redemptorist (15-14) looked to its seniors for motivation Thursday and got it from starter Caleb Nunez, who earned the win; and from first baseman Lee Whitaker, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of long doubles and three RBIs.
“Our whole focus this week has been get that next playoff game at home,” Whitaker said. “We want one at home for our fans and to do it as Redemptorist.”
Redemptorist came out strong in the second inning. Whitaker doubled to deep right center to start the inning, and he scored on Connor Callihan’s double down the left-field line. Hunter Todd was hit by a pitch and Jeremy Gajan bunted for a single to load the bases. Connor Callihan scored on Cameron Callihan’s fielder’s choice grounder to make the score 2-0.
Devyn Samson followed with a rocket to the left side that was too hot to handle, and Todd scored to increase the lead to 3-0.
Hannan (18-9) looked like it might score in the bottom of the fourth when Ian Distefano and Andrew Barre singled. But a flyball out to shallow center, followed by two strikeouts by Nunez slammed the door on any potential rally by Hannan.
Redemptorist took advantage of Hannan’s lapse. After Jacob Stagg, another senior, was hit by a pitch with one out, Whitaker doubled to deep left center. Stagg raced home all the way from first base to put the Wolves ahead 4-0. It was the third of four hit batsmen for Shaun Prats.
Hannan finally scored in the fifth, when Dale St. John was hit by a pitch, Nick Lagalante had an infield single, and Distefano walked. Barre then delivered a two-RBI single to center to close the gap to 4-2.
Nunez cut the inning short, however, with a strikeout to send the game into the sixth. The Hawks scored another run in the sixth to pull to within a run, but Redemptorist padded its lead in the seventh with two runs.
“We have some tough kids on this team,” said Wolves coach Daniel Jewett. “Any time you play on the road, it’s tough. “It’s good to see us overcome some adversity…You don’t know how many text messages, how many email I received (recently) from (Redemptorist) alumni dating back to the 1950s. “It’s been a wonderful experience (for us to help ease the pain of the school closing.)
“It’s heartbreaking that people have to go out and find other jobs with the school closing, but it’s been such a joy to bring something to the fans and to our alumni.”