When an error allowed Bryce Adams to score a sixth-inning run to give Dunham a six-run lead over University in a Class 2A quarterfinal baseball game Saturday at Dunham, it seemed like mere icing on the cake for the Tigers.
Not on this wind-blown day. Not with the way the two District 7-2A rivals were swinging the bat.
Instead, Adams’ run proved to be the game winner. Dunham had to sweat out a five-run U-High seventh-inning rally powered by Steven Sensley’s grand-slam before surviving, 10-9, and advancing to the Class 2A state tournament starting Friday at Ruston.
After Sensley’s grand slam pulled University within a run, Dunham pitcher Ryan May struck out Kyle Crifasi to end the game.
“We kept putting pressure on them every inning,” Dunham coach Joey Thibodeaux said. “We didn’t score on them every inning, but we put pressure on them every inning. And that one run in the sixth ended up making a difference.”
Indeed, Dunham (25-7) hit up and down the lineup. Every player in the Tigers order had at least one hit in a 14-hit attack, and Dunham managed at least a hit in every inning. The bottom of the order with eight-hole hitter Tyler Thompson (3-for-3) and 9-hole hitter Hayden Debate (3-for-4) was the strongest part of the lineup.
“They’re one of the best hitting teams in 2A,” said University coach Burke Broussard, whose team went 1-2 on the season against its cross-town rival. “We knew that coming in. For us to have a chance, we had to swing with them.”
University (18-14) almost pulled it off.
On a hitter’s day with a south wind blowing fly balls out to center field, the Cubs were outhit 14-10, but had the bigger swings. The left-handed Sensley smacked three hard-hit outs before going opposite field for his seventh-inning grand slam. Gino Marucci went 3-for-4, including a two-run home run over the center-field wall in the third inning off Dunham starter Ryan Mockler, giving U-High a 3-1 lead at the time.
Mockler (9-2) recovered and pitched four innings of three-run ball for the win.
But Dunham’s offense was relentless. University starter David Baker (5-4) was roughed up for nine hits and five runs in three-plus innings, then the Tigers added four more runs in 1.1 innings against reliever Matt Dantin.
“We try to throw to contact and play defense,” Broussard said. “They hit a lot of balls that were just out of our reach, and they squared a couple up.”
For a while, Baker hung in despite giving up hits The Tigers left four on base in the first three innings, and when Dunham’s Ben McClelland homered to center field in the third inning, it was with the bases empty. That combination allowed Baker to get through three innings leading 3-2 despite giving up six hits.
But in the fourth, the bottom of the Dunham order started the inning with three straight hits, chasing Baker. Dantin relieved and struggled with control and when he threw strikes, he was hit. After the big fifth inning, Dunham led 7-3.
“Even our outs were hit hard today,” Thibodeaux said.
And Dunham never did stop swinging the bats, all the way to a trip to Ruston.