For the first time over the two-day, near 24-hour period it took to complete the Class 5A regional playoff game, Catholic High was finally breathing down Barbe’s neck.
The Bears were in the midst of a dramatic comeback with two runs already home in the bottom of the seventh and the bases loaded with two out.
Sensing the extraordinary swing in momentum, Barbe went to its third pitcher in the inning — original starter and staff ace Bryce Kingsley — to retire Hunter Shows on a fly ball to right field to secure top-seeded Barbe’s 5-3 victory Tuesday over No. 17 Catholic High at Grizzly Field.
“We did everything right, and Hunter comes up and does exactly what he’s supposed to do,” Catholic coach Brad Bass said. “He hammers the ball to the right side, and if that ball’s 20 feet over, we’re going to the next game.”
Barbe’s ability to not totally relinquish its 3-1 lead before rain suspended play on Monday enabled the Buccaneers (30-6) to return to the Class 5A state tournament for the seventh consecutive year. They will face No. 9 Dutchtown at Tulane Turchin Stadium Friday at a time to be determined.
Catholic (23-13) had a five-game win streak snapped and an opportunity to return to the state tournament for a third straight year.
“Give credit to Catholic for battling back,” said Barbe coach Glen Cecchini, whose team defeated Catholic for the second time this season and has won its last 11 games. “They got some big hits there at the end. They gave us everything we wanted.”
Barbe picked up Tuesday where it left off and padded its two-run lead with two runs in the fourth for a 5-1 lead.
Third baseman Kennon Fontenot (3-for-4, HR, 3 RBIs) drove in a run with a single after Nick Zaunbrecher walked and Charlie Yorks (2-3), who doubled, scored on Beau Jordan’s sacrifice fly to right.
Reliever David Losavio, who took over Tuesday for starter Grant Borne, allowed four hits and two runs over 4.2 innings. Catcher Alex Tucker also played a vital role in holding down Barbe’s scoring after the fourth inning, throwing out a pair of runners at third on attempted steals.
Fontenot was also instrumental in helping Barbe build its early 3-1 lead with a solo homer in the first inning off Borne (2.1 innings, 3 hits, 3 runs, 1 earned) and driving in another run in the second on a fielder’s choice.
There wasn’t much to suggest Catholic was about to push Barbe to the brink in its final at-bat.
Barbe reliever Taylor Butler, an LSU signee, retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced and had two outs in the seventh when five straight Catholic batters safely reached base, including a key throwing error which resulted in a run and brought Taylor Rabalais to the plate with the bases loaded.
Rabalais (2-3, RBI) had the Bears’ third hit of the inning and fifth overall with a run-scoring single to center that scored Kevin Lindsey to make it 5-3. However, two relief pitchers later and with the bases still loaded, Kingsley, who started Monday and threw 33 pitches in two innings, retired Shows on a 2-1 offering for his second save of the season.
“I think our kids felt like we were going to win the whole game,” Bass said. “When they made the error, that was the crack in the door we saw as the opening and we were going to walk through it. I’m very proud of this baseball team.”