LAFAYETTE — Denham Springs High coach baseball coach Mark Carroll said his team played more inspired Saturday against St. Thomas More than they did Friday.
“Friday we were the Bad News Bears,” Carroll said. “We were a T-ball team Friday. (Saturday) we came out mentally sharper against a good team and competed. We wanted to see the competitive part a little bit better than it was Friday, and we got it.”
Class 5A Denham Springs got key doubles from Travis Swaggerty and in the third inning and Bailey Holstein in the fifth. Evan Jordan gave up two runs through five innings, and Swaggerty — the hard-throwing lefty committed to South Alabama — shut down the Cougars lineup in the sixth and seventh, securing the 7-4 win over defending Class 4A state champion STM..
“Evan did a good job and gave us some good innings,” Carroll said. “Swaggerty came in did a good job. He competes so hard, when we can get him to back off that fastball a little bit, and let it run, it’s tough. It’s tough to see that much velocity from the left side with as much run as he has on it.”
STM walked nine, something Cougars coach Gary Perkins said has plagued his pitching staff all season. Still, Perkins said he was pleased with the Cougars’ effort and fight.
“Our defense played well, and we were aggressive at the plate,” Perkins said. “We played hard, but on the mound, we walked too many batters. You lose 7-4 and walk nine batters. That’s tough.”
The Cougars scored two runs in the sixth inning on a home run from Grant Cox. After that, Denham Springs put in Swaggerty who struck out the side in the sixth. He gave up a hit in the sixth, and Perkins said it was good to see his team get some bats on Swaggerty’s pitches.
“We got to their starter (in the sixth), but the closer came in and he was sharp in the sixth inning,” Perkins said. (In the seventh), we got a few bats on it. This is a work in progress and hopefully we get all our pieces back and it starts coming together. I am definitely not down on my kids.”
Carroll said the Yellow Jackets did a good job manufacturing runs and running the bases — a complete 180 from Friday’s game. He said he was pleased with Swaggerty coming through as a closer.
“When we get a lead in the sixth or seventh, we want to bring Travis in to close it up,” Carroll said. “He wants to be in that role. A good closer has to have that mindset. He wants the ball in that situation. It makes it easy when they want it.”
ST. THOMAS MORE 6, CENTRAL 2: In Lafayette, he doesn’t have his full arsenal right now, but St. Thomas More baseball coach Gary Perkins said he’s not down on his team — especially after the Cougars’ win over Central of Baton Rouge on Saturday at the Atchafayla Challenge.
“We only have three starters back from last year,” Perkins said. “When you start throwing kids in their who were freshmen last year, you’re going to struggle. Our pitching came around threw strikes, and really that is all it’s about.”
Junior Mason Tucker pitched four innings for the Cougars, giving up four hits and striking out one. The Wildcats got to Tucker in the fifth, but Perkins put in sophomore Quentin Olivier to close the game.
“Quentin came in and shut it down,” Perkins said. “He has a great moving fastball that gets a lot of ground balls and pop- ups. He was the answer at that time to come in, and we were fortunate that we played good defense.”
Olivier struck out the side in the fifth and put down the Wildcats in order in the sixth and seventh innings. Perkins said the offense let them down, in the latter innings — the Cougars scored all their runs in the first four innings.
“We looked good for four innings, then I guess we lost focus,” Perkins said. “We played good defense, though, and we threw strikes. If you do that, you have a chance to win a baseball game.”
Central coach Mike Forbes said starting pitcher Cameron Polk missed some spots early, and the Cougars made them pay. He did get to freshman reliever Brant Husser, who threw two innings, allowing no hits and struck out two.
“They hit some balls hard, but we were in the game the whole time,” Forbes said. “When Husser came in, he did the job for us. He is a bulldog for me. For a freshman to come in and shut the door, gave us a chance to win. It doesn’t matter if he is playing against a little league team or the New York Yankees, he is going to get in there and play his game.”
I like my future with him.”
Perkins said his team is a work in progress and he working to learn the intricacies of unfamiliar players.
“Most of these guys were JV and freshman players,” Perkins said. “I went to their games and watched, but I didn’t know who was going to step it up this year. I’ve learned a lot about these young players, and it will help me to know what kind of management I need to do in district play.”