Coaches constantly preach about the danger of errors.
St. Paul’s committed four. Ouachita Parish committed none. That statistic proved to be the key factor in Ouachita’s 5-4 victory in a Class 5A bidistrict game played Tuesday evening at the Wolves’ Heap Field in Covington.
The errors resulted directly in runs for Ouachita, the 17th seed, in the first, fourth, and fifth innings. They were the undoing of a superb complete game on the mound by Carlo Graffeo, who allowed only one earned run on six hits and added nine strikeouts in his final game in a St. Paul’s uniform.
Fellow senior Kyle Schimpf’s two-run homer closed the game to within one run in the fourth.
“I’m not disappointed, but upset,” Schimpf said. “We fought being down by three runs, coming back to 5-4. That’s just how this team is. We fight hard. It’s depressing to lose a game like this.”
Ouachita Parish took an early lead. Mitch Campbell led off the game with a single and advanced on an infield error. Campbell scored on a deep sacrifice fly to left center by Will Heath. Caleb Armstrong singled to right to score Hunter Johnson, who reached on an error. Garett Heath then singled, and eventually made his way to third on a wild pitch.
Another wild pitch plated Armstrong to give the Lions a 3-0 lead before 16th seed St. Paul’s (18-10) sent a batter to the plate.
The Wolves got one run back in the bottom of the inning when William Huertin tagged up on a sacrifice fly to center that Kyle Schimpf crushed nearly 400 feet. Campbell made an incredible grab at the fence on the play and doubled up Austin Barrios at first, who had reached via a single. Nick Chaisson doubled, but was caught attempting to steal third with two outs.
Graffeo and starter Cody Taylor of Ouachita settled down from that point, with only the Lions having a batter reach until the fourth inning.
Ouachita (22-13) padded its lead with a run in the fourth, but Schimpf countered when he hit another bomb, with this one squeezing just inside the right-field foul pole for a home run. Barrios (who went 3-for-4) also homered, which closed the margin to 4-3.
When the Wolves’ Blake LoCicero singled to put two runners on with only one out, Ouachita turned to Blake Daily to pitch in relief.
The hard-throwing left-hander recorded two quick strikeouts to stymie any other Wolves’ runs in the fourth.
The Lions scored again in the fifth on two St. Paul’s errors. The Wolves got a run back in the same inning on a wild pitch that scored Harrison Gitz. St. Paul’s Hunter Romero later was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs, but a fantastic diving stab by right fielder E.J. Beaver ended the inning with the Lions up 5-4.
That was all it took, as both Daily and Graffeo struck out the side in the sixth. Daily quickly record three outs in the last inning to earn the save for the Lions.
“That was a big catch (by Beaver) and errors did hurt us,” St. Paul’s coach Mick Nunez said. “I thought we played tough again, it just didn’t work out this time. I tip my hat to the seniors. I don’t think anyone expected us to do what we did this year (co-champs of District 6-5A).
“One of our goals was to get past the first round, and we’ve been tripping on that the past couple years. Now, the underclassmen have something to work for.”