ST. AMANT — Four objectives are in the books, and St. Amant High School now can add a fifth to its list of goals for the 2013 season.
The 18th-seeded Gators (26-9) are headed to the Class 5A state baseball tournament after a 6-2 upset of second-seeded Destrehan (29-6) in a regional playoff game played Monday before a packed house at Gator Park.
St. Amant has won more than 20 games, reached the playoffs, hosted a playoff game and now it has reached the state tournament. The Gators will take on No. 10 Zachary in the quarterfinals, three wins from its final goal — a state title.
A three-run first inning was all the offense St. Amant senior left-handed starting pitcher Austin Tanner needed in a complete-game victory.
Tanner used three pitches with a variety of speeds and locations, especially an outside fastball that kept Destrehan hitters off balance.
“He’s just a bulldog,” St. Amant coach Troy Templet said. “He had playoff experience last year and our first game this year. He just came out firing, hit his spots. He had three pitches (working effectively).
“We have confidence when he’s on the mound, no doubt about that.”
The Gators bats further buoyed team morale early with a little help from Destrehan.
A double by Madison Nickens and a Destrehan error put the first two St. Amant hitters on base. Jacob Morales followed with a run-scoring double that bounced to the center-field wall on one hop.
Brennan Grant’s run-scoring single through the left side of the infield, and Cole Benoit’s sacrifice fly to left put the Gators ahead, 3-0.
Destrehan pushed across a run in the top of the second on an RBI ground out by its starting pitcher, Blake Hymel.
But the Gators chased Hymel in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Cardinale’s single and a two-base error scored Blaine Schexnayder, and Kirk Elisar added an RBI single to put St. Amant in front 5-1.
On the other hand, Destrehan never could come up with a game-changing play.
“When they get up (four), it takes away a lot of what we like to do,” Destrehan coach Marty Luquet said of his team’s preferred small-ball approach of bunting and running. “Of course, we didn’t have that many baserunners to do it with, either.”
“I thought (Tanner) did a great job of limiting the number of guys on base. He pitched from behind in the count the entire game and was still able to get people out. That’s a credit to him.”
Nickens added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to push St. Amant’s lead to 6-1.
Hymel led off the Destrehan seventh with a homer to right, but it proved to be too little, too late for the Wildcats. Tanner struck out two of the final three batters, and DeLaune’s throw to first on a swinging strike three in the dirt provided the final out.
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