University High coach Burke Broussard was grasping for words after his team’s latest win.
The Cubs coach had just witnessed his team rally from a three-run deficit after being shut out through the first five innings. Starting pitcher John Lewis (4-0) also tossed 121 pitches to help U-High to a 4-3 win against Dunham (17-8) in a District 7-2A baseball game Saturday afternoon at U-High.
“I’m proud of my guys, man,” Broussard said. “That was one of the gutsiest performances in 25 years. Anytime you can beat a team of the quality of them, you’ve got to be satisfied.”
It wasn’t just the win that pleased Broussard, but the way the Cubs (19-5) went about it.
U-High had just two hits off Dunham starter Ryan May going into the bottom of the sixth inning and trailed, 3-0. With a little bit of a luck and some clutch hitting, the Cubs put five of the next six batters on base, scoring four runs in the inning.
Jake Wharton led off the rally by reaching first on a fielding error, and Gino Marucci moved him to second with a single to right field. Steven Sensley was then hit by a pitch to load the bases.
A flyout to right field gave the Cubs two outs in the inning, but the runs started pouring in soon after.
“You’ve got to try to manufacture runs against a guy like May, who is pounding the strike zone with three pitches,” Broussard said. “We just tried to make contact, and we did that. We got clutch hitting when we needed it.”
Jake Alexander drew a five-pitch walk to bring in the first run, and a second scored on a passed ball as all runners advanced. Manny Miles then shot a two-strike double into center field to clear the bases and give University its first lead.
Broussard contemplated whether he wanted to bring starting pitcher Lewis back for the seventh inning. After a brief deliberation with the right-hander, Lewis took the mound to close the game.
“I just decided we were going to go with him,” Broussard said. “I owed this to him to see if he can get out of it. I was looking at him, reading his body language and noticed he still had good pop on the ball, so we just decided to stay with him. I’m glad we did.”
The decision paid off. Fifteen pitches later, Lewis had secured a win for the Cubs, who improved to 4-1 in Disrict 7-2A. Based on the way Lewis’ outing started, it’s even more impressive he lasted until the final inning.
Dunham knocked Lewis around early, chalking up two runs on three hits in the opening inning.
“You’ve got to put it behind you,” Lewis said of his first inning. “You can’t be thinking about the last pitch. It’s always the next pitch. I just focused on getting the next pitch over the plate and hitting my spot. Patience was key.”
Peyton Finical, who was 3-for-3, drove in one run in the first inning and helped start the rally that led to the Tigers’ third run in the sixth inning. Designated hitter Foster Degeneres was 2-for-3 and scored Dunham’s final run on a fielder’s choice.
Lewis, who recorded 12 strikeouts, faced a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth inning that he worked his way out of thanks to a diving catch in center field by Marucci, who came up throwing to put out Ellis at the plate and end the threat.
“I knew I had a good defense, so I was just pitching for contact and hitting my spots,” Lewis said. “I’ve been waiting for this game all season, so I just went out there pumped up about it.”
Dunham racked up nine hits, but fell to 3-2 in district.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a tough loss, but it was a great ballgame,” said Dunham coach Joey Thibodeaux. “We had our chances early. If we would have had a little better at-bats early, we could have maybe created a little more distance between us, and it may not have come down to that last inning.
“But hey, my hat goes off to those guys as well as mine. I thought both teams played hard.”
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