Connor Manola didn’t want to listen to another long-winded speech about Brusly High’s lack of hitting.
The Panthers were down 7-1 to District 6-3A rival University High heading into the top of the sixth inning when Monola decided to do whatever it took to prevent the angry postgame talking to he knew was inevitable if the score held.
Brusly cocah Tait Dupont did end up giving a speech at the end of the game, and it was centered around Manola’s performance at the plate. But that’s only because he hit a three-run homer to spark the Panthers to a come-from-behind, 11-7 win over the Cubs.
“Earlier when we were down, we were pressing a little bit,” Manola said. “But then I kind of took things upon myself to calm the guys down.
“I said, ‘Hey, it’s just station-to-station baseball. We’ve put up multiple (double-digit) hits in games this year, so let’s do what we do and have fun.’ ”
With the game seemingly out of reach at the end of the fifth, Dupont told his team to focus on cutting the score in half in the sixth, and then they’d have a chance to win it in the seventh, which is exactly what they did.
U-High coach Justin Morgan was trying to let starting pitcher Grant Upton go six innings when the Panthers (28-2, 6-0) found their rhythm.
First it was a walk to first baseman Ben Bergeron and then a ground rule double by third baseman Brady Richardson that bounced off the warning track and over the wall on U-High’s (17-10, 4-2) home field. Manola’s shot to left field came in the next at-bat.
“Our kids stayed positive all the way through,” Dupont said. “Of course, we haven’t been down a whole bunch this year, but these are the types of games that are going to help us win in the playoffs.”
After making the score manageable in the sixth, Brusly was riding high on emotion going into the seventh.
Bergeron and Richardson tied the game with a two RBI double and na RBI single, respectively, setting up designated hitter Courtland Simoneaux to drive in the winning run with a single.
Brusly shortstop Evan Daigle sealed the win with a two-run homer.
Richardson was credited with the win as the Panthers’ deep reliever. Fox Vidrine took the loss for U-High.
“When you have momentum, you have to keep your foot on the pedal and keep it going,” Morgan said. “Any time there’s a walk in baseball, there’s a slight momentum change, and they took advantage of it.”
The win completed Brusly’s sweep of U-high only two days after the Panthers squeaked by the Cubs in a 3-2 game at home in which the winning run was scored on a bases-loaded walk.