NEW ORLEANS — The Catholic Bears are one win away from ending the season as the state’s best in Class 5A.
Thanks to opportunistic base runners, a sharp sophomore on the mound and, a defense that has peaked in the postseason, 21st-seeded Catholic defeated ninth-seeded West Monroe 3-1 Saturday afternoon in a state tournament semifinal at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium.
Up next is a state final matchup against 10th-seeded Zachary at 2 p.m. Sunday. Catholic (25-13) is the lowest seed to make the 5A title game since the new seeding format in 2008 and is aiming for its first state title since 2010. Zachary beat Sm Houston 4-1.
Pitching options include left-hander Ben Braymer, who dominated 13th-seeded Sulphur in the 5A quarterfinals and right-hander Paul Roppolo, who finished Friday’s quarterfinal out of the bullpen.
“They’ve got a lot of fight,” Catholic coach Brad Bass said. “They love to play and they love each other. Good things happen with that kind of chemistry.”
Saturday’s win marked the latest twist in a season of slumps and sensation, one which the upset-minded Bears have embraced as their opportunity to prove their early and midseason troubles failed to showcase how good they truly were, or could become.
It started on the mound with left-hander Ross Massey, who one day earlier, watched West Monroe (24-13) rally from a six-run, first-inning deficit after a rain delay of more than five hours to beat top-seeded Barbe, 13-4.
“We wanted to go right at them and make them swing at pitches early, and then work ahead of them,” said Massey, who did just that. He threw his fourth complete game of the season, scattering six hits with eights strikeouts and no walks. His lone run came off Dustin Mitchell’s RBI single to left in the sixth.
Meanwhile, Massey’s offense did its job, scoring runs in the first, third and fourth innings.
Leadoff hitter Josh Smith started the game with a double to right, then advanced to third with Hunter D’Armond’s bunt. After Nick Coomes struck out, Jordan Romero laid down another bunt, which was mishandled by West Monroe, allowing Smith to score.
In the third, D’Armond struck out but reached base on a wild pitch. He then scored from second after Romero’s single moved him to third and another West Monroe error brought him home.
David Losavio scored Catholic’s final run with a line drive to third.
West Monroe finished with five errors, placing even more pressure on right-hander Dillon Walker, who allowed three runs (two earned) off six hits in six innings. Walker struck out five and walked two.
“When you put the ball in play, you put pressure on the defense,” said D’Armond, who caught the game’s final out at second, a line drive.
“We’ve been perfect on defense throughout the playoffs before that game,” said West Monroe third baseman Dylan Burdeaux. “It had nothing to do with an emotional letdown; I promise you that.”