Last spring, Riverside Academy ended No. 22 seed Runnels’ Cinderella run in the Class 2A baseball quarterfinals in heartbreaking fashion.
This year was a different story.
The second-seeded Raiders advanced to the LHSAA state baseball tournament and avenged their 2014 playoff loss with a dominant 11-3 performance over No. 7 seed Riverside Saturday afternoon at Raider Park in Reserve.
“We lost in extra innings last year and a lot of these players were on that team,” Runnels coach Tookie Johnson said. “They remember that, and they knew this year they didn’t want to walk away with that same feeling. This is a veteran team, and good teams use that for fuel.”
“They pitched very well and swung the bats,” Riverside coach Frank Cazeaux said. “We didn’t have a very good day offensively, and it only takes one day and today was the day for us.”
The Raiders (21-4) jumped on the scoreboard early when junior Hampton Hudson blistered a grounder that popped over the head of Riverside third baseman Drake Perret, scoring Thomas Myers. Emory Monett’s RBI double gave the Raiders an early 2-0 lead.
Riverside (17-11-1) took advantage of two walks in the top of the second inning to tie score at 2-2. After Runnels pitcher Josh Sparks plunked one batter and walked another, designated hitter Josh Hymel blasted an RBI single. Drake Perret’s sacrifice fly knotted things up at 2-2.
Runnels’ offensive explosion continued for the next five innings, as the Raiders out-hit Riverside 17-3 and failed to score in only the third inning. Riverside’s trio of pitchers — Jordan Loving, Mason Vicknair and Sean Mohon — did not have an answer for the Raiders bats the entire game. Loving pitched 1.1 innings and was charged with the loss.
“We didn’t get any breaks today,” Cazeaux said. “We competed, we just didn’t get any breaks, and that’s how the ball bounces sometimes, and (Runnels) took advantage of it.”
Second baseman Brandon Morris’ single gave the Rebels a final run in the top of the seventh inning to cut the score to 11-3. Morris, Mason Vicknair and Jared Hymel each tallied the only three hits for Riverside.
“We were looking to try to fight back,” Cazeaux said. “I knew we fight in us. I didn’t think at all we quit. I thought we played extremely hard. It goes back to this is baseball, and this is how the game is played.
“Today wasn’t our day.”
Junior shortstop Johnny Johnson led the Raiders offensively, finishing 4-for-5 with a home run, a double and three RBIs.
Johnson has home runs in all three of the Raiders’ playoff games this season. Myers was 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs.
Senior pitcher Josh Sparks, a Southern University commitment, worked himself out of several self-inflicted jams and pitched a complete game, three-hitter. Sparks (3-0) finished with six strikeouts, six walks and three hit batters.
“Josh hasn’t pitched much this year because he had some arm issues from last summer,” Johnson said. “He really hasn’t had a lot of mound time so he’s still figuring it out up there, but we know that he’s got that capability to take over a game. He’s a guy you’ve got to be patient with.”
The Raiders will face the winner of Oak Grove and Northlake Christian in the semifinals of the LHSAA state baseball tournament on Friday.