GONZALES — With so much on the line, a senior-laden Acadiana High School team came out a tad uptight Monday afternoon in a Class 5A regional game at Johnny Ambeau Park.
For the East Ascension Spartans, playing loose made sense after they pulled off a major shocker in the first round of the playoffs.
That combination kept things interesting most of the game, but in the end the veteran Rams came through with patience and productive at-bats to pull away for a 12-6 victory.
Acadiana advanced to the state tournament in New Orleans later this week and will face either Lafayette High or Denham Springs in the quarterfinals. The Lions and Yellow Jackets were rained out Monday and will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Lafayette.
With the 30th-seeded Spartans nipping at their heels for five innings, the Rams (21-13) couldn’t pull away and coughed up 2-0 and 3-2 leads.
Finally in the sixth inning, Acadiana’s plate discipline paid off when EA starter Tyler Robertson and reliever Jace Fairchild struggled with a tight strike zone.
Robertson hit Kody Gautreaux with a pitch to start the inning and walked pinch-hitter Jacob Poche with one out before giving way to Fairchild.
The first two hitters Fairchild faced drew walks, with Trevor Bellard forcing in a run to give the Rams a 4-3 lead. The next three hitters — Ole Miss commitment Stryker Trahan, cleanup hitter Chase Vincent and Ben Dubuc — all jumped on 3-and-1 pitches for singles, with Trahan and Dubuc each chasing in a pair of runs.
That trio combined to go 8-for-13 with nine RBIs, with Vincent delivering another two-run single in the seventh with two outs to pad the lead. They are three of the Rams’ 13 seniors who will make a third straight trip to state.
“The guys we had at the plate were experienced and those three came up big all day,” Acadiana coach Scott McCullough said. “We have a big group of seniors who wanted to get back to state and they came out and played well and overcame being a little tight at first.”
Nervous or not, Acadiana also had to handle the stiff challenge East Ascension (18-18) posed.
The Spartans stunned third-seeded Sam Houston 7-4 in the first round, and came out swinging Monday with six hits in the first three innings. But it wasn’t until Devin Speliegene yanked a two-run double to left field that EA got on the scoreboard.
That evened the score 2-2 after the Rams chipped away with single tallies in the first two innings with Vincent and Bellard producing two-out run-scoring singles.
Acadiana regained the lead 3-2 in the fifth on Trahan’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly. But the Spartans again answered when Petite dashed home on pitcher Ty Neef’s errant pickoff throw to first base.
“We competed hard and made them work for what they got,” EA coach Mike Toups said. “Them winning had a lot more to do with what they did and not what we didn’t do. We got a lot of hits, but a bunch of them came late in innings too often and we just couldn’t get a big inning going.”
The Spartans did strike big in the bottom of the sixth inning with three two-out runs with Henley punching a single to right, Petite drawing a bases-loaded walk and Fairchild chasing in another run with his fourth hit.
Toups sent Fenley homeward on Fairchild’s sharply hit single to right field, but Luke Burbank’s throw to the plate nailed him at the plate to end the rally.
That seemed to deflate the Spartans, and they went in order in the seventh after Acadiana tacked on three runs in the top of the inning.
“With two outs in that situation, you always make them throw you out,” Toups said. “And they did. That’s a credit to them.”
Likewise, McCullough wasn’t shy about crediting EA.
“They kept battling and hit (Neef) harder than anybody has all season,” he said. “They hit a lot of balls hard and we had to play good defense.”
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved