SULPHUR — John Curtis was indeed #DStrong on Saturday night.
And Dale strong.
Sophomore pitcher Daniel Cabrera and senior outfielder Hunter Dale came up big to lead Curtis to a 4-2 victory over Parkview Baptist in the Class 3A state championship game at McMurry Park.
This one was for Dorian Rodrigue, Curtis’ senior outfielder who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in April. It was that diagnosis that started the #DStrong hashtag online, a rally cry for the Patriots the last month.
“It feels awesome to win it for Dorian,” Cabrera said. “Dorian was the real MVP today. When he found out he was sick, he could’ve went home and cried. But no. He comes to every game and keeps us pumped up like nothing happened. What else can you ask?”
Rodrigue was right there with his teammates Saturday as Curtis celebrated a state baseball title for the first time since 2002.
Patriots coach Johnny Curtis presented Rodrigue the game ball after the victory. It was the 17th win a row for Curtis (26-3) and helped erase the sting from last season, when the Patriots fell to Evangel Christian on the very same field in the title game.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Curtis said. “It’s hard to hold the emotions back. It’s a group of guys who believed from the time they stepped off the field last year at this spot to right now. Perseverance and toughness and effort and a program is what embodies these guys. I can’t say enough about the grit they had.”
Perhaps no one was as gritty as Cabrera, who turned McMurry Park into his personal playground in his two days at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state baseball championships.
On Friday in the semifinal win over Iowa, Cabrera went 3-for-3, threw a runner out at third from right field and then got the save on the mound.
That was just the appetizer for Saturday, when the LSU commitment went the distance and finished with 10 strikeouts. He scattered five hits and both of the runs were unearned.
“Unbelievable,” Curtis said of Cabrera’s outing. “He’s just tough as nails.”
Cabrera was just as potent at the plate, where he was 2-for-2 to finish the tournament 5-for-5 before being intentionally walked in his last at-bat. His solo homer to left in the third inning, his sixth of the season, put the Patriots ahead 3-2 and proved to be the game-winner.
Dale jump-started the Patriots an inning earlier. His two-run double in the second drove in Curtis’ first runs.
Dale, who will play football at Washington State next season, added a double in the sixth and then scored on a single by pinch hitter Jordin LaBruzza to make it 4-2.
It seemed fitting that Dale, who missed most of the season with an injury, had a big game. He was playing for Rodrigue, his best friend.
“Having lost last year, we came back with a fire in us,” Dale said. “Then having Dorian being diagnosed put another fire in us. Everything I have done to get back on the field was for him. After the game, I told him this one was for him. I tried not to shed a tear.”
Parkview got a solid outing from pitcher Wes Anderson. He went the distance, scattering five hits to go with eight strikeouts.
“It was a heck of a ballgame, it really was,” Parkview coach Darron Mitchell said. “You have to tip your hat to John Curtis. They threw it and they hit it when they had to.”
The Eagles (23-13) scored their only runs on a bizarre play in the third. Parkview’s Adam Tarver hit a ball that appeared to come off his ankle. He even hopped around near the batter’s box as the ball dribbled toward Cabrera, who made an errant throw to first as two runs scored.
But that was all they would get against Cabrera, who was an obvious choice for Most Outstanding Player.
Curtis ended its title drought and also ended one for the New Orleans area. The Patriots became the first team from the New Orleans area to win a baseball state title since Jesuit won the 5A crown in 2011.
Dale, A.J. Huff, Jacob Bordelon, Myles Washington and Rodrigue, the team’s five seniors, posed with the trophy moments after their final game as Patriots.
They were all smiles — especially Rodrigue, who was still clutching the game ball.
“Every one of my teammates came up to me and said it was for me,” he said. “This feels amazing.”