SLIDELL —The St. Paul’s baseball team appeared to be well on its way to clinching at least a share of the District 6-5A championship Monday.
But Brett Lambert had different plans.
Lambert, the Northshore designated hitter, went 3-for-4 and helped his team erase an early six-run deficit. He cleared the bases with a towering, three-run home run to center field in the fourth and added an RBI single in the fifth. Then, with the Panthers trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Lambert poked a single into right field that scored Marshall Wadleigh and Trevin Smith.
St. Paul’s elected to intentionally walk Dane Pedersen to set up a force, but Joshua Marques knocked a single over the head of the Wolves’ left fielder to plate pinch runner Malcolm Johnson and give Northshore an 8-7 win at Ned Eades Field.
Northshore coach Rick Mauldin, who is retiring at the end of the season, said his team has had a string of tough luck this year, losing 10 games by one run and another six games by only two or three runs. But Northshore (14-17, 3-8) kept alive its chances of a playoff berth with the win. The fact Mauldin spent many of his 38 years in coaching at St. Paul’s was icing on the cake.
“This is a huge, huge, huge win,” Mauldin said. “One of the kids asked me if this is the biggest win of your career? I said, ‘Wait a minute, it’s been 38 years. But this one ranks way up there.’ To be down 6-0 and come back against the sixth-ranked team in the state, you can’t say enough about that.”
Mauldin said he was surprised St. Paul’s (18-7, 8-3) elected to pitch to Lambert in the bottom of the seventh with first base unoccupied. But he didn’t question the call.
“Mick (Nunez) is a good coach,” Mauldin said. “He’s smart. He’s got a good staff. They must have known what they were going to do. I think they were trying to pitch around him ... trying to get him to pop the ball up or hit it into the ground.”
Lambert’s game-tying single set the stage for Marques’ heroics. The sophomore second baseman was 0-for-3 until the final at-bat of the game, but he saved his best effort for last.
“I knew I had to produce, get the runners over,” Marques said. “I got all of it.”
St. Paul’s scored in the first on an RBI single by Logan Trent. The Wolves blew the game open in the third with five runs. Trent connected for a three-run home run, and Kyle Schimpf followed with a two-run blast.
Handsome Monica provided what seemed to be an insurance run in the top of the seventh with a solo shot.
Michael McKinney (2-0) was sharp in relief of Northshore starter Nico Cuccia. McKinney used a variety of offspeed pitches to keep the Wolves off-balance. He threw 4.1 innings, allowed only three hits and one run (on the Monica home run in the seventh).
St. Paul’s hosts Fontainebleau on Wednesday. Northshore plays Slidell. Covington, which also is vying for district honors, has Mandeville remaining on its schedule.