Byrd came into Friday night’s baseball playoff game against Brother Martin as arguably the hottest team in Class 5A.
The Yellow Jackets had won 13 of their past 15 games, and racked up at least eight runs in all three of its playoff games up to this point.
But that all came to a screeching halt as Blair Frederick threw a commanding complete game to guide the No. 14 Crusaders (23-11) to a 5-2 win, taking the first game of its best-of-three quarterfinal series against No. 22 Byrd at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
“They swing the bats really well, and you can see how aggressive they are,” Brother Martin coach Mark Wisniewski said of Byrd. “Blair was on tonight. I couldn’t really ask anymore of him after what he gave us.”
Frederick made easy work of the Byrd hitters for the majority of the night.
The junior held the Yellow Jackets (22-16) without a run for the first six innings, but Byrd finally broke though in the seventh. The Yellow Jackets were able to add two runs and threatened to make a late comeback, but Frederick righted the ship and escaped the inning with a bases-loaded strikeout.
The LSU commitment retired 15 Byrd hitters in a row at one point, and lasted seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He also had two walks and six strikeouts.
“It was a great win,” Frederick said. “I got in a little trouble in the seventh, but the offense did a great job of supporting me and giving me five runs.”
Brother Martin shortstop Michael Kirsch started the Crusaders scoring effort off with a bang, blasting Byrd pitcher Andrew Suggs’ fastball over the left field wall for his first home run of the season, giving the Crusaders an early 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Brother Martin added two more base runners following a walk and a hit-by-pitch, but Suggs was able to strike out Brother Martin outfielder Kyler Johnston to limit the Crusaders to one run.
“It was really exciting,” Kirsch said. “I didn’t think it was going to go when I first hit it, but it kept carrying and I’m just happy I was able to help the team.”
Suggs struggled with his control at times, but consistently fought through and got himself out of trouble at the end of innings.
The senior ended both the second and third innings with a strikeout, leaving two Crusaders runners on base in each inning. He followed that by striking back-to-back batters to end the fourth inning, stranding three runners.
The Crusaders chased Suggs in the fifth inning after 105 pitches. He pitched four innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“We knew Byrd was a really good team coming into tonight, no doubt about that,” Wisniewski said. “I don’t want to take any credit away from their guys, but Blair was great tonight. He carried us.”
Brother Martin utilized a few mistakes by Byrd in the fifth inning to cushion its lead. Joel Bergeron increased the Crusaders lead to 3-0 following a fielding error, and Kyler Johnston made it 4-0 after a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.
Game 2 of the series will be played at Kirsch-Rooney for 1 p.m. Saturday, with game three immediately following, if necessary.