OPELOUSAS — Opelousas Catholic hitters saw a plethora of outside pitches.
In Tuesday’s Class 2A playoff game, visiting Lakeside had done its homework with scouting and knew that the Vikings had feasted this season on inside pitches. The Warriors pitching staff went out and threw on the outside corner for the first four innings on their way to building a 3-0 lead.
Lakeside’s pitchers, though, began missing the mark in the fifth inning, and the Vikings’ powerful lineup took advantage as the Vikings scored five runs, highlighted by junior first baseman Spencer Gardner’s bases-clearing double. That offensive outburst propelled OC to a 5-3 victory. The Vikings will now host a best two-of-three series against Rosepine or Pine starting Friday.
“He threw it in, and that’s where I like it,” Gardner said. “I had faced a couple pitchers like him this season and the ball usually tails in right where I like it. The pitch was there, and I just hit it.”
Lakeside (12-13) took an early lead off of OC miscues.
In the third, OC junior third baseman Matt Collins couldn’t handle a hard hit ball by Braydon Jones and then committed an error on a hit by the next batter. That eventually led to one run scoring, but a pair of errors in the fourth extended the Warriors’ lead.
Lakeside put a pair of runners on with two singles, but both of those scored when Collins throw to first went past Gardner. The ensuing throw to second also missed the mark, which allowed two runs to score.
“We knew that they we would were going to put the ball in play based on batting practice,” OC coach Justin Boyd said. “We knew we had to play defense. We just didn’t execute as well as we should have.”
Despite those miscues, Boyd expressed confidence in his infield.
“They wouldn’t be out there today if I didn’t think they could be out there,” Boyd said. “They will be back out there on Friday.”
After leaving the bases loaded in the fourth, OC (24-7) finally got things going at the plate.
Gaige St. Cyr led off with a single to center off of reliever Tanner Page and was joined on the base paths moments later by Nick Mouret who hit a line drive up the middle. Caleb Theriot hit a double off the wall to score St. Cyr.
That forced a pitching change by Lakeside. Jake Gray came in for Page and then gave up a fielder’s choice by Aaron Whipp that loaded the bases with no outs for Gardner. Gardner then hit the ball into left field and advanced to third as the ball rolled and was not handled by the outfielder. Gardner then scored on a sacrifice fly by Collins.
“We have pulled out a couple of close games like this before,” Gardner said. “We have had to battle back but we have the guys to be able to do that.”
OC starting pitcher Conner Castille surrendered only one hit while striking out two in the final two innings to pick up the complete-game victory.
“I think we realized that we were still in it, and when they put in a different arm, we started having much better swings,” Boyd said. “Would I have liked us to not have to score all of our runs in one inning? Yes but we never gave up.”