Sunday evening provided a high drama start to a huge week for parish high school sports. The Ruston High baseball postseason ended, barely, with Bearcat competitors in golf and track and field about to shoot for state championship honors, along with a pair of linksters from Cedar Creek.
Choudrant’s top-ranked Class B baseball team starts its playoff campaign at home this evening. State track and field meet qualifiers from Choudrant and regional power Simsboro will take to the Bernie Moore Track Stadium oval at LSU on Thursday, with Ruston’s two regional champion teams lining up there Saturday.
RUSTON BASEBALL: There was, as Ruston coach Toby White suggested going into the weekend, not much difference between his Bearcats and the Wildcats of Central High from Baton Rouge.
Not much at all. Combined, in three LHSAA Class 5A playoff games, Ruston outscored Central 12-8. But at the end of games one and three, the Wildcats had the winning edge.
A brilliant pitchers’ battle in the series opener Saturday afternoon went Central’s way, 2-0. The Bearcats got an outstanding outing from Isaac White in the second game, an 8-1 triumph that squared the series and set up Sunday’s decisive battle, won 5-4 by the Wildcats.
It advanced Central (23-11), the 12th seed in the bracket, to the state playoff quarterfinals. In contrast, the best Bearcat season in quite a while ended with a 25-10 record by the No. 5 seed, which had a 13-game win streak snapped in the first game Saturday.
“(It’s) tough to see those seniors right now,” White said. “When you’ve invested as much as that bunch has, and that’s a whole, whole lot, it’s tough.”
Fans at the Ruston Sports Complex saw quality performances from the Bearcats in each game. J.R. Tollett pitched a five-hitter and struck out six in the first game, but Central’s Connor Cassels twirled a two-hitter, both off the bat of Dawson Willis.
Isaac White struck out 10 in his five-hit complete game victory, getting the Bearcats to Sunday’s series decider. An 11-hit attack backed him, with Jack Whitaker going 3-for-4 to set the pace.
Sunday evening, Central never trailed but never led comfortably, either. Jacob Martin forged a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run double. Cassels bunted in the go-ahead run for the Wildcats in the fifth, and the visitors padded the advantage to 5-2 with two more in the sixth, but Ruston roared back.
Joshua Miller singled in a run, then Whitaker scored on a one-out balk to close the gap to 5-4. But with the tying run at third base, the Wildcats got a pair of strikeouts to escape. The Bearcats couldn’t reignite in their last at-bat.
“That’s exactly the way you go out, fighting tooth and nail,” said their proud coach. “That’s just a scrappy group of kids. You look at most every team left in the (5A) playoffs going into this weekend and there’s Division I signee after Division I signee, but this team didn’t have that. It just had a lot of guts. This senior class set a tone for us and it’s going to help us for years to come.”
CHOUDRANT BASEBALL: The top-seeded Aggies open their Class B playoff run this evening at 6 when No. 17 Holden visits. There’s no playoff series in the B bracket, just a single-elimination format.
Choudrant drew a first-round bye but didn’t take the week off, knocking off any rust and pretty much everything else, too, in a 21-4 pounding of Family Community Christian on Thursday. An 11-run first inning removed any drama as the Aggies (28-3) won their 26th straight.
LHSAA GOLF: In soggy Lafayette, Ruston High’s Reeves Pullin and two Cedar Creek golfers, Grey Worthy and Hayden McCluskey, are scheduled to tee off this morning in LHSAA state tournament play.
Pullin shot a nifty 79 last Monday at Cypress Bend near Many to earn his spot in the Division I field playing at The Farm. Worthy and McCluskey advanced from their Division IV regional at Oak Wing in Alexandria to the appropriately named The Wetlands for the state tourney.
The 36-hole events are slated to wrap up Tuesday afternoon.