It started out as a pitchers’ duel between Daniel Cabrera of Curtis and Jena’s Demetrious Howard.
It ended up being the Cabrera Show, though.
The Curtis sophomore left-hander dominated on the mound and at the plate in the Patriots’ 6-2 victory in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs at Mike Miley Stadium.
Curtis (24-3), the No. 2 seed, extended its winning streak to 13 and will play Monday at North Vermilion, which beat Brusly 7-5 in eight innings, in the quarterfinals. The winner of that one advances to Sulphur for the semifinals at the baseball state championships.
Cabrera (4-1) proved to be the Giant killer, throwing six innings and not giving up a hit while striking out 10.
Not bad for a guy who admits he didn’t have his best stuff before the game.
“In the bullpen, I was throwing hard, but I didn’t have anything going for me,” said the LSU commitment. “But usually when I do that I throw well off the mound. Everything was working for me. It felt average in the bullpen, but it felt good on the mound.”
It had to feel just as good at the plate for Cabrera, who was 3-for 3.
Cabrera got game’s the first hit, an RBI single up the middle in the third that gave Curtis a 1-0 lead. It came after Kyle Burns led off with a walk and advanced to third on a throwing error. The Patriots’ biggest hit came in the fifth, though.
That’s when Kody Schexnayder hit a three-run triple to give Cabrera a comfortable 4-0 lead. It was a bit of redemption for Schexnayder, who struck out in his first two at-bats.
“I knew I had to come up with a big hit,” the junior second baseman said. “It was two outs and my team needed an answer and I wanted to give Carbrera some leeway on the mound. He helps us out all the time. I had to come up clutch for the team.”
Cabrera then added two runs on a homer in the sixth inning. It was his fifth of the season, including one inside-the-park homer.
Cabrera didn’t get to finish off the no-hitter, though. He was replaced by Austin Hansel in the sixth.
“We were winning 6-0, and they wanted to save me for Monday,” Cabrera said. “I knew my team had my back, and we would come out with the win.”
They did, but it ended up being a bit harder at the end as Curtis had to use three pitchers (Hansel, Nick Wilson and Jacob Bordelon) in the sixth.
Jena got a two-run triple in the inning by Jonavan Simmons to cut it to 6-2. They then loaded the bases with the tying run at the plate before Bordelon got him to ground out.
“Daniel was electric,” said Patriots coach Johnny Curtis. “We pulled him out because we had a six-run lead, and we felt our bullpen could hold them down. They barely did, but they did. Daniel is starting to get his bearings and pitch with a little bit of flow. He silenced their bats there.”
The Giants, playing in the second round for the first time since 2003, finished 20-6. Senior pitcher Demetrious Howard gave up six hits and struck out six, including four in the first two innings.
But Cabrera ended up stealing the spotlight with his effort.
“Their lefty (Cabrera) is as good as anybody we’ve seen all year,” first-year Jena coach Russel Dorton said. “We have a young group and we’re trying to build our program and John Curtis is established in everything. I’m proud that we came out and competed, especially in the seventh. It would’ve been easy to just get it over with but they didn’t.”
Jena finished with just one hit. A.J. Huff and Jay Curtis had the other two hits for the Patriots, and that was plenty with Cabrera in control.
“You rarely see him have an off day,” said Schexnayder. “We have great confidence in him and he has great confidence in us.”