Redemptorist High School opened in Baton Rouge 67 years ago. But with the school set to close after this school year, every moment carries extra gravity for its students.
No reason to explain that to the Redemptorist baseball team, which played Archbishop Hannan in a Class 2A bidistrict playoff on Thursday. A loss would have meant that the Wolves would have played their last game, and not just for the season, but forever.
But at Redemptorist, they intend to keep playing for at least one more game.
The Wolves, the 19th seed in Class 2A, looked sharp against the 14th seeded Hannan Hawks. Redemptorist defeated Hannan 6-3 at Coquille Sports Complex near Covington.
As might be expected, Redemptorist (15-14) looked to its seniors for motivation Thursday. They got it from senior starter Caleb Nunez, who earned the win; and from first baseman Lee Whitaker, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of long doubles and three RBIs.
“Our whole focus this week has been get that next playoff game at home,” Whitaker said. “We want one at home for our fans, and to do it as Redemptorist.”
After a relatively uneventful first inning, Redemptorist came out strongly in the second inning. Whitaker doubled to deep right center to start the inning and he scored on Connor Callihan’s double down the left-field line. Hunter Todd was hit by a pitch and Jeremy Gajan bunted for a single to load the bases. Connor Callihan scored on Cameron Callihan’s fielder’s choice grounder to the left side to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Wolfpack.
Devyn Samson followed with a rocket to the left side that was too hot to handle, and Todd scored on the play to increase the lead to 3-0.
Hannan (18-9) looked like it might finally crack the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth when Ian Distefano and Andrew Barre sparked the Hawks with singles. But a fly ball out to shallow center, followed by two strikeouts by Nunez slammed the door on any potential rally by Hannan.
Redemptorist took advantage of Hannan’s lapse. After Jacob Stagg, another senior, was hit by a pitch with one out, Whitaker doubled to deep left center. Stagg raced home all the way from first base to put the Wolfpack ahead 4-0. It was the third hit batter of the game for Hannan starting pitcher Shaun Prats. He hit four batters in a complete game effort.
Hannan finally tallied in the fifth, when Dale St. John was hit by a pitch, Nick Lagalante had an infield single, and Distefano walked. Barre then delivered a two-RBI single to center to close the gap to 4-2.
Nunez cut the inning short, however, with a strikeout to send the game into the sixth. The Hawks scored another run in the sixth to pull to within a run, but Redemptorist padded its lead in the seventh with two extra runs.
“We have some tough kids on this team,” said Wolves coach Daniel Jewett. “Any time you play on the road, it’s tough. It’s good to see us overcome some adversity…You don’t know how many text messages, how many email I received (recently) from (Redemptorist) alumni dating back to the 1950s.
“It’s been a wonderful experience (for us to help ease the pain of the school closing.) It’s heartbreaking that people have to go out and find other jobs with the school closing, but it’s been such a joy to bring something to the fans and to our alumni.”
The Wolves next will face the Oak Grove/Mamou winner in a regional playoff.