BRUSLY — Tuesday evening’s baseball game between Brusly High and visiting St. Charles Catholic reiterated the notion that when a team is down, it is certainly not out.
The Panthers held a one-run advantage from the second to the sixth inning and seemed to be in the driver’s seat before the two teams exchanged blows throughout the next three innings that resulted in three ties and three lead changes.
When the dust finally settled, St. Charles (12-10) escaped with a 5-4 win in the District 7-3A contest, thanks to a stellar effort from senior Chad McNeil both on the mound and at the plate.
McNeil started the game for the Comets, throwing pitches that resembled his school’s nickname as he held the Panthers (16-5) to one run on three hits through the first five innings.
He was eventually replaced in the seventh inning, but stayed in the game at first base — a move that paid off down the stretch.
Just half an inning later, McNeil launched a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left field for the game-winning solo home run.
“To tell you the truth, I was just trying to put a ball in play,” McNeil said. “I saw it good, flew my hands at it and lucky enough, got it out the park.”
Two innings before, with the Comets trailing 1-0, McNeil lined a double into center field to score Kameron Keller from second and even the score at 1-1. McNeil advanced to third on the throw home and scored one pitch later on a sacrifice from third baseman Austin Weber to give St. Charles a 2-1 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth.
McNeil pitched six-plus innings, giving up four runs on five hits while striking out two and walking three.
“Unbelievable,” St. Charles coach Paul Waguespack said of McNeil’s day. “You can’t say enough about him. He’s a senior, he battled his butt off and gave us a chance, and that’s all we ask.”
The lead was short-lived as Brusly’s leadoff man and left fielder Kwanstan Adkins shot the second pitch of his at-bat deep to right-center field for a solo homer, tying the score again, this time at 2-2.
The Panthers took the lead with some small ball, laying down a sacrifice bunt followed by a sacrifice fly to score Blake Manula and take a 3-2 edge. Cullen Prejean also scored in the inning thanks to a wild pitch and a stolen base to put Brusly up 4-2 entering the seventh.
“These kids battled all game,” Brusly coach Tait Dupont said. “It was a tough game and a tight game pretty much the whole way through. The kids fell behind, took the lead again, and when it was tied, they kept battling. They left it out there on the field.”
The first at-bat of the seventh inning came from Comets left fielder Brandon Zimmer in what Waguespack called “the play of the game.” Zimmer battled through a nine-pitch at-bat, fouling off consecutive 2-2 pitches before eventually drawing a walk to lead off the inning.
After a strikeout, Eian Mitchell was hit in the elbow to put two runners on for St. Charles, who was down to its final out following another strikeout one batter later. Zimmer eventually scored on a wild pitch, and Mason Bordelon — the final batter of the inning — drove in Mitchell to send the game into extra innings.
There, McNeil’s magic gave the Comets a much-needed win heading into Thursday’s rematch with the district rivals.
“(The win) is really big because it keeps our goals intact — we’re trying to win a district championship,” Waguespack said. “If we lose this one, it puts us behind the eight-ball. We know they were good.
“We knew they weren’t going to quit, and we feel fortunate to come out on top. It isn’t going to get any easier on Thursday. It’ll be another battle.”
Luckily for St. Charles, it won’t be facing Brusly starter Taylor Prejean, who threw 130 pitches Tuesday while giving up four runs on four hits, all of which came in the sixth inning or later.
Thursday’s clash is set for 4 p.m. in LaPlace.