Riverside Academy baseball coach Matt White is hoping Sulphur is good to him — again.
The last time White took a Riverside team there was in 2002.
But it wasn’t the baseball team, it was the Rebels softball team and they won the Class 2A state championship in Frasch Park in Sulphur.
This week, White will return to Sulphur — this time as the baseball coach. The Rebels (20-9) are the No. 3 seed in Class 2A and will take on third-seeded Kinder in a semifinal at 1 p.m. at McMurry Park in Sulphur.
The winner will play the Opelousas Catholic-Catholic of New Iberia winner for the championship at 3 p.m. Saturday.
This will be Riverside’s second trip to the state tournament in four seasons under White, but this is the first time all games are being played in Sulphur.
The Rebels were state runner-up to Calvary Baptist in 2012 when the tournament was in Monroe. White led the softball team to the state tournament in four of his five seasons.
“The last time I was there I walked off the field as a state champion,” White said. “I sure hope we do that again. It’s the same exact feeling. Boys, girls, baseball, softball, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same. Those girls were wired. The fans were wired.
“The intensity is just the same.”
But there was a point in Monday’s game when White had to be asking himself, “Who are these guys?” Just about everything that could go wrong, did.
The Rebels committed five errors in the first four innings, helping Runnels, the No. 22 seed, take a 7-3 lead. There were dropped fly balls, overthrown balls to first and second, overrun balls in the outfield, misplayed grounders and a couple of wild pitches.
But somehow the Rebels managed a stunning come-from-behind 8-7 win, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning on a Runnels throwing error.
“I don’t know what it was,” White said. “We did have several mishaps, and yet we still won the game. That says a lot about our guys. I guess it was just nerves. That’s baseball, you know. That’s going to happen when you have young kids in the lineup. ”
White said he was having unpleasant flashbacks at the start of the season, when the Rebels had opened 0-4, then went 4-10, playing some rough baseball.
But after mid-March, the team won 14 of 15 games, easily captured the District 10-2A championship and rolled into the quarterfinals. Part of that, White attributes to youth. There are only three seniors in the lineup.
But there are two eighth-graders, Jordan Loving and middle infielder Chase Wallace. Then, Riverside’s ace pitcher, Mason Vicknair, is a freshman right-hander, who also started as an eighth-grader.
Vicknair has been the go-to guy for the Rebels this season, posting a 9-2 season record. He pitched 7.1 innings on Monday, giving up nine hits, walking four and striking out four.
This weekend’s pitching will rotate around him, Brandon Hymel and Sean Mohon.
Vicknair said he’s ready.
“This is what we’ve been striving for all year,” Vicknair said.
“It’s a great feeling.”