SULPHUR — Riverside Academy’s Class 2A semifinal baseball game against Kinder on Friday was a lot like the Rebels’ season.
They got off to a rough start, and then they responded. But in the end, it wasn’t enough: Riverside fell 8-5 at McMurry Park.
Kinder (28-7) will go for its first baseball state title at 3 p.m. Saturday when it plays Catholic-New Iberia.
Riverside got off to a rough start, giving up five runs in the first inning. The first four Kinder batters got hits off starter Brandon Hymel. In addition, the Rebels struggled defensively, misplaying several fly balls that should have been outs.
“We came out and expected to play well,” Riverside freshman shortstop Mason Vicknair said. “I think we were nervous in the beginning. It was hard to read the ball in the outfield for the outfielders. When we finally made adjustments, you see what happened. We put up zero spots the last four innings.”
Riverside responded quickly in the second, scoring five runs as Tyler Gauthier’s two-run triple highlighted the inning. The Rebels had a chance to take the lead but had a runner thrown out at the plate to end the rally.
“We could have easily folded, but we battled back and tied it and made a game out of it,” Riverside coach Matt White said.
Kinder answered in the bottom of the second with three more runs. Dylon Poncho and Bryce Baker had back-to-back doubles for the Yellow Jackets.
“We had an opportunity after Riverside answered in the top of the second to hang our heads and panic a little bit, but we didn’t,” Kinder coach Kenney Courville said. “In our last game (against Menard in the quarterfinals), we were down 1-0 until two outs in the bottom of the seventh. So I thought it was important to get off to a fast start today. That’s exactly what we did.”
The teams combined for 16 hits in the first two innings before settling down. Neither scored the rest of the way.
Poncho, who committed to LSU in February, went the distance for the Yellow Jackets. After giving up five hits through the first two innings, he scattered four the rest of the way. He finished with seven strikeouts, including striking out the side in the fifth.
“It was pretty simple,” Poncho said about settling down after the rocky start. “The coaching staff told me to get my hands out of my glove quicker when fielding the ball. They also said just continue to pound the strike zone, and let your defense do the work. I also was able to spot my breaking ball much better after the second inning, and that helped a whole lot.”
Hymel lasted one inning for the Rebels before being replaced by Sean Mohon. Jordan Loving pitched the sixth.
Nick Delaneuville had a pair of singles to lead the Rebels. Delaneuville is one of just three Rebels’ seniors, along with Jeremiah Berteau and Cameron Bivona, who had one hit each.
With the bulk of the starters returning, Vicknair said the future is bright for Riverside, which last won a state title in 2006.
“We only have three seniors, so we will be back next year — no doubt,” Vicknair said.
The Rebels finished 20-10 after getting off to a rough start.
“I’ll remember the roller-coaster ride,” White said when asked about the season. “We started off 1-7 and won a couple here and there. It was a great experience for these kids. We are very young, and the future is bright, so we’ll take a lot from this season.”