SULPHUR — The underdogs are the top dogs in Class 5A baseball for the second straight season.
Third baseman Dalton Aspholm and pitcher Hunter Arnold led the way as eighth-seeded Central beat Sulphur 4-0 in the 5A title game that completed the LHSAA state baseball tournament Saturday night.
A year after beating then nationally ranked West Monroe to win its first baseball title in Class 5A, the Wildcats (28-12-2) repeated the feat at McMurry Park with a combination of timely hitting, pitching and defense.
“They swung it well, but (Arnold) is one of our best guys,” Aspholm said. “If we got one run, I knew we could win. I just tried to scratch a hit and get the runs across. (Arnold’s) stuff is nasty. That was all we needed.”
It is the seventh baseball title in school history for Central, which also won in 1978 and had a string of four in a row from 1992-95. Aspholm, the title-game MVP, had the two-RBI hit that helped stake the Wildcats to a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
Sixth-seeded Sulphur (31-10) had eight hits, compared to five for Central. But Arnold’s guile and craftiness, mixed with defense and a little luck was a winning combination. Arnold struck out four and walked two in a complete-game shutout.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Tornadoes were primed to score when a throw bounced past Aspholm at third. It bounced right back to Aspholm off the fence, allowing him to throw out a Sulphur runner at the plate.
“In order to do something like this, you have to have a little luck,” Central coach Mike Forbes said. “Last night (in a semifinal win over Barbe) a ball just like that bounced away from the infielder and we scored a run. Tonight we were able to get the out.”
Aspholm, who finished 1-for-3 with the two RBIs. He brought Arnold to the accept the MVP award with him, eliciting cheers from the crowd.
“(Aspholm) made a helluva play,” Arnold said of the throw to the plate. “I knew my defense was behind me, I tried to keep the ball down and I let them work."
Sam Kenerson was 2-for-4. Hunter Hebert and Brant Chauvin also had an RBI hits for the Wildcats, who gave District 4-5A its seventh LHSAA sports title of the year. Scott Jones was 2-for-3 to pace a Sulphur team that had runners in scoring position in all but one inning.
The complexion of the game changed when the Wildcats strung together three hits to score three runs in the fourth. Sulphur starter Haden Parker issued two walks to start the inning. It looked like the Tornados might get out of it when the first player to draw a walk, Brant Husser, got caught stealing.
But Parker walked R.J. Coffee and then Drew Lasseigne singled. The two runners advanced on a passed ball before Aspholm slapped a single to left field that scored Coffee and courtesy runner Andrew Cangelosi.
Aspholm took second on the throw and then scored on a single by Chauvin off Connor Cooke, who came on in relief, to make it 3-0. Hebert added an RBI hit in the seventh.
“(Arnold) was focused. After last night’s game he came up to me and let me know he wanted the ball and he was going to give me his very best,” Forbes said. “When you’ve got guys like that who are relentless ... who are selfless, this is what happens. That’s a great hitting team over there and for us to hold them to one run says something.”