SULPHUR — The ability to avoid big innings was a big reason why University High was the top seed going into Tuesday’s Division II title game. It had been two months since an opponent scored seven runs on the Cubs.
But a six-run third inning gave sixth-seeded St. Charles Catholic the cushion it needed for a 7-4 victory over U-High in the Division II final that helped open the final day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Baseball tournament at McMurry Park.
“It happened fast … they get about five hits in a row right there,” UHS coach Justin Morgan said. “Lance (Wade, U-High starting pitcher) made some good pitches and (St. Charles) put some good swings on them. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the name of the game.
“If you stay away from the big inning you give yourself the best shot to win. I’m proud of our kids' effort. We continued to battle, and we got the tying run to the plate. We gave ourselves a shot at the end.”
The Cubs (29-8) scored twice in the seventh, but winning pitcher Nick Lorio fielded a grounder to the mound and recorded the final out, touching off the celebration for the Comets (31-8), who won their first baseball title. It is the second straight runner-up finish for U-High, which also sought its first baseball title.
Title-game MVP Robby Gilbert finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs, including a two-run triple that punctuated SCC’s pivotal third inning. Lorio (9-0) scattered 10 hits. It was the first loss of the year for year for Wade (9-1). Dylan Carmouche went 2 for 3 with two runs scored for Cubs. Brock Slaton was 2 for 4 with an RBI, while Ethan Butler also was 2 for 4 for UHS.
Wade cruised through the first two innings. Gilbert reached on an infield single, but Wade got three called third strikes and then retired the Comets in order in the second. Wade struck out the first batter he faced in the third before the bottom fell out. SCC coach Wayne Stein told his hitters to move closer to the plate, and it worked.
The next six Comet batters reached base. TJ Lasseigne drew a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Peyton Broussard’s RBI single to left. An RBI double by Kaile Levatino and the two-run triple by Gibert quickly made it 5-0. The final run of the inning scored on a groundout.
“We knew Wade was a strike thrower, but I felt early on we were crying about strikes too much,” Stein said. “I said, ‘Look, we’re not we not going to come in here and say, “Hey, you know that year we could have won a state championship, but the umpires zone was too big. I said let’s get on the plate and expand our plate (zone).”
The Comets added a run in the fourth. U-High scored single runs in the fifth and sixth. Carmouche and Butler singled to start the bottom of the seventh. Carmouche scored on a groundout and Butler scored on a single by Christian Scherer. The game ended with two UHS runners on.
“It was tough,” U-High senior first baseman Jacob Burke said. “Whenever we get here, something always seems to happen. But I do believe it (a title) will happen for these guys.”