NEW ORLEANS — Two months ago, Catholic High had an 8-8 record, showcasing little resemblance to a high school baseball team two victories from a Class 5A state title.
Those early wins and just as many losses, though, helped teammates get to know each other and later, learn to depend on each other. It showed during Friday afternoon’s 4-2 quarterfinal victory over 13th-seeded Sulphur in the LHSAA Class 5A state tournament at Tulane’s soggy Turchin Stadium.
“We trust in each other,” said third baseman Nick Coomes, who was a part of Catholic’s big sixth inning, “trust that we’re going to win; that the next guy behind us is going to get the job done.”
With the win, Catholic (24-13) is the lowest seed to reach the 5A semifinals since the Louisiana High School Athletic Association started its seeding format. In a 4 p.m. Saturday semifinal, Catholic will play ninth-seeded West Monroe, which beat top-seeded Barbe 13-4.
“Once you get to the playoffs, you can throw all those numbers out the door,” Bears coach Brad Bass said. “Everybody’s here, and everybody’s capable of winning it.”
The 21st-seeded Bears disposed of their higher-seeded competitor with a four-run sixth inning, which broke open a scoreless game.
“I knew eventually they would scratch a few (runs), and I just wanted to weather the storm,” Sulphur coach Jason Trahan said. “The storm got a little rough in the sixth.”
The game started after an hour-long rain delay.
In the sixth, Coomes’ doubled to left-center field, and after Jordan Romero was hit by a pitch, Corey Free tripled to right field off the wall to score two runs.
Then a fielding error allowed Catholic to place runners on second and third with two outs, pinch-hitter Austin Devillier entered the game and singled to center, driving in two more runs and knocking out Sulphur’s starting pitcher, right-hander Cole Lavergne.
“If he wouldn’t have been there for the first six innings, when we weren’t having much luck ... we wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Free said about Catholic’s starting pitcher, left-hander Ben Braymer.
Braymer pitched five scoreless innings. He exited after giving up five hits, striking out seven and walking none.
In Catholic fashion, Braymer threw Free’s praise back at him.
“Same thing goes to those guys, being able to put up runs on the scoreboard,” Braymer said.
Not that Sulphur (24-12) made it easy. The Tornadoes, who reached the quarterfinals with pitching, defense and small-ball tactics, scored their two runs of the in the bottom of the sixth.
Kale Breaux’s single through the left side drove in two runs, and after he moved to second on a wild pitch, Lavergne brought him home with a shot to left center field — the latter marked the end of Braymer’s outing. Reliever Paul Roppolo proved to be up to the task. With one out, he caught Logan Louviere’s line drive, part of a double play to get the Bears out the inning.
WEST MONROE 13, BARBE 4: The Rebels scored a dozen runs over the first three innings in their quarterfinal win
The Rebels made it rain hits before the actual rain started, batting around and scoring six runs before the game was halted with two outs and a man on first in the top of the first.
Dustin Mitchell, Hunter Williams, Hayden Dixon and Nick Schexnaider each drove in a run and Zach Ainsworth drove in two with a two-out single that chased Barbe starter Sloan Dieter, who threw a one-hitter Monday in Barbe’s regional-round win over Covington.
The onlsaught continued after the 5 hour, 36-minute rain delay, as Tanner Neal singled to score Ainsworth and make the score 7-0.
Barbe (33-4) scored twice in the bottom of the inning, with Dieter reaching after being hit by a pitch, and Shane Selman reaching on an infield single and scoring on a Victor Negron single.
But, the Bucs left the bases loaded, and West Monroe kept scoring in the second inning. Williams led off with a single and scored on a double down the right- field line by Dixon to make it 8-2.
The Rebels stretched the lead to 12-2 in the third, with Williams hitting a two-run double and Nick Schexnaider a run-scoring single.
Tanner Noel scored on an error.
Barbe staved off the mercy rule with a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Braden Comeaux was hit by a pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Negron. The Bucs had runners on first and second with one out, but the Rebels turned a double play to end the inning.
Barbe stranded 10 base runners in the first six innings, at least one in every inning.
The Bucs tacked on a run in the sixth, with Beau Jordan leading off with a double and scoring on a Shane Selman single.
Every Rebels starter had a hit. Williams finished 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs. West Monroe starter Taka High, pitching on three days rest, threw 113 pitches and allowed three runs in five innings.
Jordan, Negron and Kennon Fontenot had two hits each to lead Barbe.
The loss snapped an 11-game Barbe winning streak. The Bucs allowed a total of 12 runs during the streak and had shut out their last three opponents. Barbe had two shutout wins over West Monroe in the regular season.
Warren Arceneaux also contributed to this report.