DONALDSONVILLE — With the bases loaded in the sixth inning of a scoreless game, Brandon Noel got the pitch he was looking for.
The St. John senior drilled a 2-0 fastball to right-center for a bases-clearing triple leading the Eagles to a 3-0 District 8-1A win over Ascension Catholic at La La Regira Field.
Noel’s timely hitting made him a winner on the mound as well. Noel (6-0) went the distance, tossing a two-hitter as St. John (11-6, 5-0) took sole possession of first place.
Ascension Catholic (7-15, 4-1) brought in reliever Falcon Mire after the Eagles loaded the bases on ACHS starter Landon Clifton. Noel was the first batter Mire faced.
“Coach gave the green light if it was a fastball,” Noel said. “(Mire) started me out 2-0. I knew a fastball was coming. I was sitting back, waiting on it, and luckily he gave me one over the plate.”
Clifton battled into the sixth inning even with St. John putting runners on base every inning and stranding 11 runners for the game. The sophomore right-hander threw 108 pitches striking out eight and allowing four walks.
Most of Clifton’s troubles came after there were two outs. That was the case in the sixth after he retired the first two batters. Landon LeBlanc walked, Heyden Hemenway singled to right, and Colby Sadden was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
That brought Noel to the plate, prompting ACHS coach Todd Landry to bring in Mire.
“We played with fire for a few innings, and we were able to get out of it,” Landry said. “In the sixth inning, Noel did a good job putting the bat on the ball, and that was the difference in the game.”
Noel’s pitching helped the St. John defense control its side of the game. ACHS stranded runners after two-out singles in the second and third innings.
A two-out walk in the fourth was no help when Collin Landry hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice. With one out in the sixth, Ross Ponville reached on shortstop Sadden’s error. Ponville was doubled-up at first after Nick Bellina flew out to left field.
For the game, Noel faced 24 batters in seven innings. He threw 81 pitches, 46 for strikes. He walked one batter and struck out three.
“(Clifton) threw a gem, and Brandon, on our side, held them to two hits,” St. John coach Chris Harrell said. “Brandon’s a senior, and he’s been here before. All in all, I think it was a very well-played baseball game on both sides.”
Before the sixth, St. John’s best scoring chance came in the top of the fourth. Bryce Rivet and Landon LeBlanc drew one-out walks. After a strikeout, Sadden looped a single to left, leaving Rivet with a tough decision on trying to score.
The indecision led to a rundown as Rivet was caught between third and home. Mire, playing catcher before relieving Clifton, made the tag on Sadden to end the threat.
In the third, St. John loaded the bases with two outs only to have Andrew Gulotta strike out swinging.
“There’s never a clear favorite when we play these guys,” Landry said. “Its always a good contest and today was no different. They did the things they needed to do to win. They got the baserunners, and we didn’t.”