Bearcats baseball getting hyped for Saturday playoff doubleheader; HS roundup

Ruston High School track and field coach Allen Whitaker poses Wednesday with the Bearcats’ honorary assistant coach, Cam Murphy (at right). Photo by AMY VESSEL

Staff writer

While the Ruston High School track and field program is riding high after sweeping the regional team titles Wednesday and qualifying 25 entries for next Saturday’s state meet, the Bearcats’ red-hot baseball club is gearing up for a playoff series at home starting Saturday.

Cedar Creek’s trio of tennis competitors all posted wins Thursday in the LHSAA Division IV state championships before bowing out of their singles draws.

RUSTON BASEBALL: The Bearcats are on a terrific roll going into Saturday’s Class 5A regional round doubleheader at the Ruston Sports Complex against visiting Central of Baton Rouge.

Ruston (25-8) is riding a 13-game winning streak, including a 4-1 homefield victory Monday over Ponchatoula in a first round contest.

Now the playoff format changes to a best-of-three series, beginning with a Saturday doubleheder. The first pitch comes at 2 p.m., with the second game slated for 5:30 p.m. If the teams split Saturday, the decisive game three will be at 2 Sunday.

Fans are advised that the stadium will be cleared between games on Saturday and separate tickets will be needed for the second contest. Admission is $10 per game and $5 per game for students.

Ruston owns the No. 5 seed in the 32-team bracket. Central, which had a 12-game streak of its own until mid-April, is 21-10 and seeded 12th. Bearcats coach Toby White said the Wildcats are a stout opponent despite what the seedings might infer.

“You make it this far, you’re doing things right. They have an ace and two other guys on the mound who can get it done,” he said. “The power ratings (of RHS and Central) are not but 1 ½, 2 points different. At this stage, you’ve played some good teams and you’ve beat some good teams.

“They have a long tradition of having a strong baseball program and they expect to win in the playoffs.”

White and his staff haven’t settled on their pitching rotation. Sophomore righty J.R. Tollett has been stellar but Ruston has gotten strong outings from Isaac White, Dyson Fields and Blaine Rollins, so there’s plenty of options.

When Jack Whitaker led off the Bearcats’ first at-bat with a homer Monday, it set a tone White hopes to maintain.

“It’s always good to get that first one under your belt so you feel you’re doing something right,” he said. “You’re still playing at this time, and you just have to keep it going.”

RUSTON TRACK & FIELD: Two Region 1-5A championships Wednesday brought home by the Ruston track & field teams took on special meaning, considering the circumstances surrounding their last trip to Natchitoches in 2019.

Two years ago, the RHS teams left home with no power and heavy hearts. Senior teammate Cameron Murphy had lost his mother and younger brother to the EF-3 tornado that struck in the darkness about 30 hours before the team was planning to bus to the meet. He found the courage to continue and joined the squad for the trip.

“Cam” ran a relay leg and helped the Bearcats win the regional title, their first under coach Allen Whitaker. Now a student at Northwestern State, Murphy was at the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex all afternoon to support his former teammates and alma mater.

Whitaker designated him as an honorary assistant coach for the meet, as an honor and to further motivate the RHS competitors. It worked wonders.

The Bearcats almost lapped the field, piling up 132 points to 71 for second-place Ouachita.

Ruston’s Lady Bearcats won their duel with Lafayette, 95-82, and nobody else was close. Ouachita’s 54 points were a distant third.

The state meet is next Saturday at LSU.

CEDAR CREEK TENNIS: All three Creek qualifiers won at least one match Thursday in the LHSAA Division IV state tennis championships in Monroe, with Margaret Gilmore reaching the state quarterfinals.

Gilmore rolled 6-0, 6-1 over Grace Hebert of Vermillion Catholic in the opening round, then battled to a 7-6, 6-3 second-round victory past Hafsa Mansoor of University Academy of Central Louisiana. Gilmore’s run ended in the quarters when Averis Lewis of Christ Episcopal School recorded a 6-0, 6-2 decision.

In the boys singles draw, James Black and Andrew Maxwell each notched first-round triumphs.

Black blanked Beaugh Lanclos of Westminster Christian 6-0, 6-0 while Maxwell advanced 6-1, 6-1 over Westminster’s Grayson Bourgeous.

The second round wasn’t successful for either Cougar, however. Black was ousted 6-0, 6-3 by Jesus Diaz of Houma Christian. Maxwell exited 6-0, 6-0 at the hands of Dunham School’s Michael Dudley.


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