SULPHUR — Standing 180 feet away from home and a potential state championship, Teurlings Catholic’s Hayden Cantrelle didn’t see any risk — only opportunity.
Cantrelle, who had tied Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game with a double down the right-field line in the bottom of the fifth, broke on Brett Weber’s bunt and didn’t stop until he crossed home plate.
What may have appeared to be a daring move was textbook Teurlings base-running: scoring the go-ahead run on a ball that traveled all of 30 feet. Pitcher Josh Taylor made it stand up to lead the top-seeded Rebels to a 3-2 victory and the state title over No. 3 seed West Ouachita at McMurry Park.
“It was one of those games where you’ve got to chip away,” said Cantrelle, a Louisiana-Lafayette commitment. “When opportunity presents itself, we had to take advantage.”
Teurlings’ come-from-behind victory came 363 days after the Rebels lost 5-1 to St. Thomas More in last year’s state championship game.
Teurlings (34-5) was not only driven to return to this stage at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state tournament but to have it culminate in victory, the Rebels securing their first state crown since 2012 and the sixth in school history. The Rebels, 7-2 in one-run games this season, won 22 of their final 23 games.
“We’ve been on big stages,” said Taylor, voted the game’s Most Outstanding Player for his complete-game effort. “We make it far every year and have a lot of pressure. We knew how to deal with it. Everybody played well.”
Teurlings ran into potential roadblocks on its way to trying to atone for last year’s disappointing conclusion.
The Rebels, ranked No. 23 nationally by MaxPreps.com, trailed Breaux Bridge 4-0 after two innings in Thursday’s state semifinal before rallying for a 5-4 victory on Nick Webre’s home run in the bottom of the sixth.
In trying to conquer West Ouachita, which beat No. 6 Benton and No. 2 St. Michael the Archangel to reach the final, Teurlings found itself locked in a scoreless duel between Taylor and West Ouachita’s Austin Tidwell until the fourth inning.
After that, the game teetered on which team could answer the other over the next three innings, with the score changing hands four times.
“The close games we’ve been in lately in the playoffs are crucial for us in believing and knowing we can get it done,” Teurlings coach Mike Thibodeaux said. “We hit the ball really hard. The guys knew we were going to break through.”
After Dawson Huckabay doubled in a run for West Ouachita (26-9), Teurlings rallied from its first deficit when Jacob Richard doubled home Chaney Dodge with one out.
LSU signee Zach Watson of the Chiefs was intentionally walked with two outs, stole second base and made it 2-1 on Tidwell’s single to left in the sixth.
“They’re a good baseball team. They swing the bats really well and execute,” West Ouachita coach Mitch Thomas said of Teurlings. “I thought it was two good teams. It was a one-run game, and anything can happen.”
Including alert base-running from Cantrelle, whose double brought in courtesy runner Garrett Boudreaux after he took over for Taylor following a one-out triple off the left-field wall.
Teurlings had six of its seven hits in its final three at-bats, led by LSU commitment Webre’s 2-for-3 effort, but it was Weber’s bunt attempt that occupied Tidwell long enough to put Cantrelle’s game-winning heroics into motion.
By the time Tidwell had fielded and turned to first base to complete the second out, Cantrelle never broke stride around third base and scored without a throw.
“We trust in the play,” Cantrelle said. “It’s in the heat of the moment. I felt I had it.”
Taylor, a Louisiana-Lafayette signee, had to repel one final West Ouachita threat: Dylan Spillers’ leadoff single and Watson’s two-out single just under the glove of Dodge at third base.
Taylor (11-1) capped his 94-pitch outing, 66 of which were strikes, with a full-count fly ball from Tidwell to Richard in center field for the final out, triggering a dogpile on the pitcher’s mound.
“We had to wait forever, and it finally came,” said Taylor, who allowed six hits and two walks and struck out six. “It’s a long season … a long grind. We finally made it here, and we finished.”