SULPHUR —After 10th-seeded Live Oak ousted No. 3 Jesuit in the first Class 5A semifinal, the possibility of another 5A upset came into play at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Baseball tournament on Friday.
However, a two-run home run by Shane Selman and pitching of Gunner Leger short-circuited St. Amant’s hopes for repeating the upset.
Selman’s second-inning shot over the left-field wall and a precise arsenal of pitches by Leger were enough to give top-seeded Barbe a 2-0 victory over No. 5 St. Amant in the last semifinal game completed Friday night at McMurray Park.
“I think they’re outstanding,” Barbe coach Glenn Cecchini said of St. Amant. “Great tradition. They battled us and we were just a little better. We had that two-run home run and Gunner was outstanding. (Leger’s) changeup was incredible, and he spotted his fastball. (Barbe catcher) Bryce Jordan did an amazing job calling the pitches.”
With the victory, Barbe (38-2) advances to play Live Oak (31-9) in the 5A title game at 5 p.m. Saturday. It was the 26th straight win the Bucs, who are ranked No. 1 nationally and are seeking their seventh 5A title. St. Amant (29-9) won 19 of its final 22 games.
Leger (17-0) allowed four hits in the first two innings. The lefty went on to retire 15 of the final 17 St. Amant hitters he faced.
St. Amant starter Brennan Grant (7-3) also allowed just four hits and struck out three. Though Grant lamented giving up the home run to Selman, St. Amant coach Troy Templet saw it differently.
“There’s a lot more than one pitch in a ballgame,” Templet said. “There were plenty of other pitches you have to look at. We got hits early, but never could get one that scored a run.
“If you had told me before the game that we would hold them to two runs, I’d tell you I like our chances. We’ve been very good in close games. We were 12-2 in one-run games. We were down 2-0 in the seventh, but I still had confidence in my guys.”
Jordan, who finished 2-for-3 with a double, was the only player with more than one hit in the game. Braedon Barrett also had a triple for the Bucs. Grant, Matthew Delaune, Blaine Schexnayder and Owen Richard each had one hit for St. Amant.
The Gators came out swinging and out-hit Barbe 4-3 through three innings. Cecchini made an early visit to the mound and told Leger and Jordan they needed to expand the strike zone.
“We knew coming into the game they were going to take some good swings,” Leger said. “So we expanded the zone on them. Our defense played great behind us.”
St. Amant stranded five baserunners in those first three innings, getting two runners on in the first and second innings. Grant did his part to keep Barbe honest by picking off a Barbe baserunner at first base in each of the first two innings.
Barrett tripled to right field to open the second for Barbe, but was thrown out of the plate on a safety squeeze. Selman soon erased any elation by the Gators with one swing. The Bucs’ No. 7 hitter deposited the first pitch from Grant that he saw well over the fence to make it a 2-0 game.
Offensive chances for both teams dwindled as the game went on. Reece LeBlanc, who drew Leger’s only walk in the sixth, was St. Amant’s only baserunner in the final four innings. Jordan’s double in the sixth was the final hit and the Bucs’ lone hit in the last three innings.
“It’s still the one pitch that made the difference,” Grant said of the home run pitch.
“I started finding my breaking ball later in the game. Every pitch had to be the best I had after the home run. It’s been a fantastic season, I hate to see it come to an end.”