RUSTON — It’s a position the Dunham Tigers knew all too well.
For a second straight year, the Tigers fell in a semifinal of the Class 2A state tournament as Calvary Baptist took a 3-2 win Friday at J.C. Love Field on the Louisiana Tech campus.
Calvary (16-14) will play the winner of the late Friday game between Evangel (24-5) and Riverside Academy (24-9).
Last year, Dunham held a late lead (10-9 in the top of the seventh and final inning) with two outs before Evangel battled back for an 11-10 victory.
This time it was a pitchers’ duel, with Dunham’s Ryan Mockler and Calvary’s Garrett Williams each turning in standout performances.
Calvary took the lead when it scored two runs in the third inning thanks to a Randy Woodle walk and a pair of Dunham errors for a 2-0 advantage.
Williams finished with nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings. He gave up two runs (both earned) on two hits.
Mockler went the distance, giving up three runs (only one earned) with six strikeouts.
“He threw a tremendous game,” Dunham coach Joey Thibodeaux said of his senior pitcher. “He’s been a bulldog all year long for us and deserves a lot of credit for the game today and the way he’s played the entire season. He put us in position to win in the end.”
Calvary added a run in the top of the fifth to make it 3-0 as shortstop Robby Horn picked up the first hit against Mockler with a single that scored centerfielder Ryan Leone, who had reached base after being hit by a pitch.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers rallied as first baseman Bryce Adams led off with a walk and scored on a double by shortstop Ben McClelland. The Tigers added a second run when McClelland scored from third on a fielder’s choice with designated hitter Russ Viguerie batting.
Williams and Leone then switched positions, with Leone striking out Dunham’s Austin Stafford to end the inning.
Mockler allowed only one Cavalier on base in the top of the seventh with a walk, setting up a chance for the Tigers to try to tie things up or even win it with their final at bats in regulation.
But Leone caught Kyle Duhe looking for a first-out strikeout before the Tigers hit a pair of grounders to second base that sent the Cavaliers into celebration mode.
“To get down like we were and come back and move into position where we could win says a lot about this team,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s tough to come here two years straight and fall both times, especially the way we did today in coming back to make it tight but not quite getting there. It’s tough. I really don’t have an answer.”
Dunham ended its season at 25-8, and Thibodeaux let his teary-eyed players know how he felt following the game.
“I told them I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Thibodeaux said. “They played their hearts out against a great team and came so close. To come back like we did, against one of the top pitchers in the state, really says a lot about this team.
“It’s tough to face a great pitcher like Williams and then have to turnaround and face another great on like Leone. Both those are tough guys to face. We played a great game and our players should hold their heads high and know they played a great season.”