BY JAMES BEWERS
SULPHUR — Pure agony.
There are not many more ways to describe the Breaux Bridge baseball team’s 4-3 loss to Tioga in the Class 4A state championship game Tuesday night at McMurry Park.
The third-seeded Tigers (33-7) played like a state champion for 61/2 innings. Senior pitcher Christian Gonzalez was masterful up to that point. He struck out 10 and limited the top-seeded Indians (31-5) to one unearned run, taking the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead.
“(Gonzalez) was in a zone,” said Breaux Bridge 19th-year coach Kyle Cormier. “He had his rhythm going. We’ve seen a lot of that. He’s been playing for us four years.”
Though Breaux Bridge’s offensive success was limited, they had done enough based on the way Gonzalez was pitching, even adding an insurance run in the top of the seventh on Layton Berard’s infield single.
But Tioga, riding a 30-game winning streak entering the final, had no interest in letting the Tigers win their first baseball state championship.
“I had 100 percent confidence in my guys to be honest,” said Cormier, who brought the Tigers to the state tournament for the fifth time. “I just wish I could have prepared them a little bit better, I guess. Hard-fought game. Two really good teams. In the end, they just got the big hit when they needed to. That’s the bottom line. That’s baseball. But I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Terence Grines led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, and Landon Terrell moved Grines to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Then Gavin Basco and Isaac Williams each drew walks.
All of sudden, the tying run was at second base. Peyton Forester delivered for the Indians on the next at-bat, ripping a single into right field to score two.
Breaux Bridge coach Kyle Cormier met with Gonzalez and his infielders after the game-tying single, but he stuck with Gonzalez and decided to intentionally walk Rylon Ganey.
With the bases loaded and the Tigers’ infield draw in, Shay Bernard smoked a ball that caromed off shortstop Cole Mouton’s glove, scoring Williams and ending the game. The championship is Tioga’s first since they repeated as Class 3A champions in 1986 and 1987.
“I’m so proud of them, regardless of the outcome,” Cormier said. “Obviously a lot of people get caught up in wins and losses. They don’t realize that it’s more than that.”
This wass the first time Breaux Bridge reached the state championship game. The Tigers’ senior class reached the state tournament three times in four years and now have a runner-up finish to its name.
“They have nothing to be ashamed about,” Cormier said of what he would tell his team. “They’re great young men. They’re going to be great fathers and very successful young men. I’m just honored to have been around them this year. I’d go to battle with those guys any day. I know they’d do he same for each other.”