ALBANY — It looked like fourth-seeded University High was in trouble after 28th-seeded Albany High scored three runs on four hits in the bottom of the first inning.
U-High pitcher Jacob McCain needed to get up to speed in a hurry. For McCain, the key was the right mix of offspeed pitches as the Cubs rallied to take a 5-3 victory in a Class 3A quarterfinal playoff game played at AHS on Monday.
“I didn’t have my offspeed stuff early on,” McCain said. “I had to settle down and throw strikes with my offspeed stuff, keep them off balance and let my defense work behind me.”
McCain (6-3) did not record a strikeout. The right-hander retired 18 of the final 20 batters he faced, allowing just one walk and one hit — a two-out single by Dylan Hoyt in the seventh — to help the Cubs (25-9) advance. UHS plays John Curtis, a 6-3 winner over Parkview Baptist, in a 3 p.m. Friday semifinal at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association state baseball tournament at Sulphur’s McMurry Park.
U-High, the Class 2A runner-up a year ago, advances to a state tourney for the second straight season.
The fact that the Cubs countered Albany’s early strike with four runs in the top of the second also was crucial. A two-out error that helped fuel the UHS rally left Albany coach David Pittman to ponder what could have been.
“That’s baseball,” Pittman said. “It’s all part of it. We had the error and we didn’t strike out at all, but it was not a good day offensively.
“We were reaching for balls. But you know what, you’ve got to tip your hat to that young man because he got us to do that. I sought (McCain) out after the game and told him what a good job he did.”
Albany starter Dirk Pelloquin (8-2), a lefty, scattered six hits with five strikeouts.
Brandt Broussard and Brooks Southall each finished 2-for-4 to pace the Cubs on offense. Seth Daugherty was 1-for-4 and had the game-winning two-RBI hit. Dylan Cunningham and Ethan Olah each had a double for the Hornets (17-10).
Albany wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Tanner House singled on the third pitch he saw from McCain and Joe Domingue followed with a single. Dylan Cunningham doubled to right score one run.
The second run scored on a ground out by Denver Strain. Olah’s double brought home the Hornets’ final run.
“We’d never played them before, but we knew going in they could swing the bats pretty good,” UHS coach Burke Broussard said. “They had some good swings. But then Jacob settled down. He’s kept us in every ballgame he’s pitched this year.”
Southall led off the U-High second with a single and moved to second when McCain drew a walk one out later. With two outs, Greg Bowser reached on an infield error that brought two runs in to score.
Brandt Broussard laid down a perfect bunt down the third-base line. The son of the UHS coach alertly took second when no AHS defender covered the center of the infield. Daugherty then singled to bring the tying and go-ahead runs home. Jake Wharton’s sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth scored the game’s other run.
“It was a matter of me trying to protect with two strikes,” Daugherty said. “(Pelloquin) threw me a good pitch and I got enough of it to get it into the outfield.
“This (state tournament) is big. We’re a different team than we were last year, but we’re still a good team.”