DENHAM SPRINGS — The Denham Springs baseball bandwagon picked up a new supporter after its dramatic 5-3 Class 5A opening-round state playoff victory over Northshore.
“I’ll pull for them all the way now,” Northshore coach Rick Mauldin said. “I hope they win it all. I’ll be in Sulphur to watch them if they do.”
No 7 Denham Springs (23-7) twice overcame one-run deficits, including a stirring comeback in the sixth with three runs on four hits after two were out.
Winning pitcher Bailey Holstein complemented his right arm with a red-hot bat, doubling to deep center field to drive in Reese Pourciau and Travis Swaggerty with the go-ahead runs.
Jonah Overland’s run-scoring triple to the gap in left-center, the fourth straight hit off losing pitcher Gary Cavollo, scored courtesy runner Beau Grasse.
“At the beginning of the game I was swinging through some change-ups,” said Holstein, who was 2-for-4. “I knew I would get some more of those and I wanted to try and find something over the middle of the plate. It was straight up the middle and I just hit it back up the field.”
Holstein (8-0) took his new-found momentum back to the mound in the top of the seventh and retired Northshore in order on three consecutive ground outs.
“This bunch is pretty resilient and they forget their mistakes and they compete,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “We tell them to compete every pitch of the game and concentrate. We’ve been getting better at that late in the season.”
Denham Springs will host the best-of-three regional series against No. 10 Destrehan on Saturday at a time to be determined.
“It’s sad two good teams had to meet in the first round and eliminate one,” Mauldin, whose team had won 12 of its last 14 games and finished 21-11. “If you wanted to watch a good high school baseball game you needed to be in Denham Springs tonight.”
Northshore led 1-0 and 3-2 but couldn’t get out of the sixth inning to avoid Denham Springs’ late-game charge.
Cavollo (6-4) twice escaped bases-loaded situations in the first and fifth innings, but Pourciau (2-4) and Swaggerty (2-2) both singled ahead of Holstein’s double that reached the wall.
The lead changed hands three times through four innings when Swaggerty wiped out a 1-0 deficit with a mammoth 2-run homer in the third.
Northshore got a bit of a break in regaining a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Blake Way (3-3) skied a ball into a tough left field sun that Overland was unable to locate resulting in a run-scoring triple. Hunter Campbell (2-3) followed with a RBI-single up the middle.
Holstein (8-0) allowed seven hits but didn’t walk a batter and struck out six in throwing 57 of 78 pitches for strikes.
“When they took the lead we all got down a bit,” Holstein said. “Coach got us back up and we just had to stay calm and not let things get to our head.
“We’ve practiced overcoming things and it showed today.”