COVINGTON — Tuesday’s strong rain showers put the mere happening of a St. Paul’s playoff game in doubt.
The eighth-seeded Wolves eventually got the game in against 25th-seeded Haughton, but the Buccaneers definitely put a damper on St. Paul’s.
After relinquishing a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, Haughton broke the game open in the top of the ninth. The Buccaneers scored four runs in the inning, even though their only hit was an infield one. A St. Paul’s error and three walks aided the scoring binge.
Haughton won the bidistrict playoff 5-1 and advanced to the regionals where they will face West Monroe.
St. Paul’s (19-8) had a hit in the ninth, but couldn’t score.
St. Paul’s tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the seventh. Joel Spansel delivered an infield single with one out, and then Haughton starter Josh Walker, who had been masterful to that point, ran into trouble after a single by Christian Commander and walks to Kyle Schimpf and Rick Ragan, the latter of which scored Spansel.
Haughton (18-17) got a walk to start off the eighth, but St. Paul’s reliever Logan Trent got a fielder’s choice and a strikeout. Wolves catcher Handsome Monica threw out a Haughton runner trying to steal second on a hit and run to end the top of the eighth.
In the eighth, St. Paul’s Tyler St. Philip led off with an infield single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Monica was intentionally walked, and Spansel looped a ball to shortstop, but that resulted in a double play when St. Philip was caught off second base for the final out.
Haughton scored its first run in the the fourth. Zack Lemley and Levi Sharp each singled with one out and Sam Wallace followed with a slow chopper to first base. St. Paul’s first baseman Logan Trent fielded the ball cleanly and got Sharp at second, but shortstop Tyler St. Philip’s throw back to first in an attempt to turn the double play bounced past Trent, which allowed Lemley to score and give the Buccaneers a 1-0 lead.
It appeared that would be enough breathing room for Walker. The Haughton starter allowed a walk and a single in the first, but the inning ended when center fielder Mathew Anthony threw out St. Paul’s Zach Buster at home, who was trying to score on Joel Spansel’s single. Walker then tore through the St. Paul’s lineup, retiring nine consecutive batters from the second through the fourth innings.
Walker pitched all nine innings. He allowed seven hits and notched seven strikeouts.
“I was a little fatigued in the last couple innings, but when we got ahead again, I got pumped up and felt confident,” he said. “This is a great win for us.”
“We were 5-12 at one point this year,” Haughton coach Glenn Maynor said. “When they tied it up on us, I told our guys to stick with it. We’ve been through adversity this year, and I told them things would go our way.”
St. Paul’s coach Mick Nunez said his team ran into a buzzsaw with Walker on the hill.
“That kid was lights out,” Nunez said. “We battled back and scratched out a run to stay in, then things got away from us in the last inning. But (Walker) kept us off balance all night.”