SULPHUR —The list of 2015 accomplishments for the Catholic High baseball team was impressive. It starts with a school-record 37 wins and a No. 2 playoff seed.
Ultimately, there’s only one Class 5A state champion. And for the second straight year Barbe had Catholic’s number, claiming a 6-1 victory over the Bears in the Class 5A title game that helped close the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament Saturday night.
Title-game MVP Brant McNease tossed a complete-game, three-hitter, striking out five to power the Bucs (32-10) to their second straight 5A title and sixth title in the past 10 years.
“The kid (McNease) did a great job, give them all the credit … They won the ballgame,” Catholic coach Brad Bass said. “But I do want it to be stated that I love this baseball team with everything good in me. I’m so proud of what they were able to accomplish this year.”
A year ago, a nationally ranked Barbe team defeated Catholic in a best-of-three games quarterfinal series on its way to a state title. The Bucs graduated seven seniors off last year’s team and placed fourth in District 3-5A this season.
Barbe coach Glenn Cecchini said talk that the Bucs couldn’t cut it against the other top 5A teams this season fueled a playoff fire.
“These guys were so unselfish and loved one another,” Cecchini said. “Give God the credit and glory. We took fourth in district, the worse finish we’ve ever had. These guys believed. They stayed with it one pitch and one play at a time.”
With McNease on the mound, it was easy for the Bucs to go one pitch at a time. The senior transfer from St. Louis Catholic walked two Catholic batters in the bottom of the first and settled in after that.
“This game, we came out with a lot of intensity and put some runs on the board and went from there,” McNease said. “I didn’t really have all my pitches working like I wanted to at the start. But as the game went on I found them.
“I got a feel for the mound and where the umpire’s strike zone was and started throwing all my pitches for strikes. I got them (the Bears) on their heels.”
The Bucs scored three runs in the top of the third. Marshall Alexander’s triple scored two of the three runs. He scored on a groundout by Armand.
Armand had the game’s other big hit, a long two-run home run in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach.
McNease had a no-hitter until Matt Crapanzano reached on a infield hit in the bottom of the fourth for Catholic (37-4), which set a school record for most wins in a season and was seeking its second 5A title in three years and third since 2010.
Catholic got its only run in the fourth, when Charles Soileau walked, took second when starting pitcher Brian Fairbanks (8-1) reached on an error and went to third on Crapanzano’s hit. He scored on Ross Massey’s groundout.
The Bears stayed alive in the seventh on a two-out single by Cole Johnson. Josh Smith was hthen it by a pitch. But McNease, an LSU-Shreveport signee, got a flyout to end the game.
As the celebration began for Barbe there were some tears for Catholic. But afterwards the seniors traded hugs with the coaches and their teammates.
“I think this team was something special. We did something nobody at this school has ever done before,” said Massey, a Tulane signee. “There’s nothing to be upset about. I think 37-4 is a pretty remarkable record, and I love these guys. They’ll be back here.”