Bearcats punch out Ponchatoula in playoff debut; High school roundup

Ruston’s Isaac White watches his home run leave the park during the third inning of the Bearcats’ 4-1 home win over Ponchatoula Monday afternoon. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ)

Staff writer

Ruston High School’s baseball team stretched its winning streak to 13 Monday evening by putting away visiting Ponchatoula in the opening round of the state playoffs, but Monday was the end of the season for eight RHS tennis competitors ousted at the LHSAA state championships in Monroe.

Cedar Creek’s golf season concluded at the Division IV, Region I championships in Alexandria.

RUSTON BASEBALL: Jack Whitaker led off the bottom of the first with a homer that put the Bearcats on top to stay and J.R. Tollett did what he does best on the bump, keeping Ponchatoula at bay in a 4-1 Class 5A opening round playoff win at the Ruston Sports Complex.

The fifth-seeded winners led 4-0 by the time the Green Wave pushed across a run in the seventh.

“Any win is good this time of year,” said RHS coach Toby White after the game. “(Ponchatoula’s pitcher) settled in but we put him in situations where he had to make some high-stress pitches early on, and that can always take a toll on you. And defensively, we made plays when we needed them.”

Tollett scattered six hits, struck out six and walked nobody while 65 of his 88 pitches were strikes. The sophomore righty also led Ruston at the plate with two hits and an RBI.

“He helped himself with his offense,” White said about Tollett. “It’s those little things that can really add up to count in big ways. And on the mound, he just pounded the zone all game long.”

Tollett’s single followed Whitaker’s homer. Courtesy runner Reid Williams moved around the bags and scored on a wild pitch.

In the second inning, Whitaker walked with two out, then scored on a double to left field by Tollett.

Isaac White cracked another homer, with his third inning blast making it 4-0.

After their 13th consecutive win, the Bearcats (25-8) will await this evening’s playoff between 12th-seeded Central of Baton Rouge or 21st-seeded Hahnville to see which team comes to Ruston later this week for a three-game series in the regional round.

RUSTON TENNIS: Ruston competitors notched four wins Monday in the first three rounds of the LHSAA Division I Championships in Monroe, but none of the eight qualifiers advanced to Tuesday’s championship rounds.

The highly-accomplished senior doubles duo of Andrew Ellis and Will Johnson rolled over two opponents but fell in a nailbiter in the state semifinals.

Ellis-Johnson won 6-1, 6-1 in an 11 a.m. first round match over a team from Lafayette High, then rolled 6-3, 6-0 in a 3:30 quarterfinal as they ousted a Jesuit-New Orleans tandem.

But in their third contest, starting at 8 p.m., they dropped a set for the first time this spring, 2-6, to the Catholic-Baton Rouge pairing of St. Martin-Duncan. The Bearcats battled back to snag the second set 6-4, setting up a pro set tiebreaker that went Catholic’s way.

Two Lady Bearcat entries captured first-round wins.

Senior Taryn Sternitzky fought to a 7-6, 7-5 triumph in singles over Emily Matthews of Fountainbleu, and then was overwhelmed 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals by Lillian Cambras of St. Joseph’s.

The doubles combination of senior twins Ellie and Sophie Puljak scored a 4-1 opening round victory over a Mandeville duo, but fell 6-1, 6-0 in the quarterfinals to a St. Joseph’s tandem.

Eliminated in the first round were Bearcats junior Caleb Free in singles, by a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Colby Lofton of Sam Houston; and senior Aaron Williams and freshman Will Fendley in doubles, topped 6-0, 6-0 by a Barbe team.

CEDAR CREEK GOLF: The Cougars finished fifth Monday at the LHSAA Division IV, Region I championships held at Oakwing Golf Club in Alexandria.

Grey Worthy was the low man on the Cougars’ card, followed by Hayden McClusky, Parker Bush and Corbin Cooper, with Jack Bell also finishing but not making the top four cut.

Cedar Creek carded a team 440, 152 over par, in breezy conditions on the challenging layout that hosts a pro mini-tour event annually. Ouachita Christian’s 50 over par was the low score.

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