STONEWALL – When Lane Thurman saw his seventh-inning line drive slice away from Caldwell Parish right fielder Zach Brown on Wednesday night, Thurman had one thought — outrun North DeSoto first base coach Shannon Cunningham.
Cunningham had reason to chase Thurman, as North DeSoto’s senior left fielder became the latest postseason hero for the defending Class 3A state champions when Brown couldn’t handle Thurman’s liner.
When the ball glanced off Brown’s glove, the Griffins had a 3-2 Class 3A second-round playoff victory and a date with the Eunice Bobcats in the state quarterfinals.
“(Cunningham) was running faster than I was,” Thurman said. “He got me.”
Thurman said he didn’t care if the game winner was ruled a hit or an error, fitting with Griffins coach Bo Odom’s characterization of Thurman.
In the team huddle after the game, Odom praised Thurman for taking his opportunity and making the most of it. Thurman, like several of his teammates, mostly watched the Griffins’ stunning run to the state championship a season ago before becoming key contributors to the title defense.
“What a game, what a game,” Odom said. “Lane didn’t get the opportunity to play a lot last year, and he never complained. He’s taken full advantage of the opportunity this year. He hasn’t lost on the mound. He comes in and hits the ball hard. That’s a hard ball to catch.”
Thurman and fellow senior Austin Pinnick, who earned his 11th win of the season with three innings of scoreless relief, had some help from a couple of younger Griffins.
With Caldwell Parish right-hander Brett Duplissey baffling Griffins hitters for 5 2-3 innings, Hunter Speights finally solved Duplissey. Speights, a left-handed hitter, dumped Duplissey’s two-out, full-count offering — his 127th pitch of the game — down the left-field line for a game-tying double.
It was just the fourth hit of the game for North DeSoto (27-4), which will host Eunice at 6 p.m. Monday in the quarterfinals.
“He ran out of gas,” said Caldwell coach Buster Duplissey, Brett’s father. “He told me he was out of gas. He just pitched our other playoff game. The best thing I can say about Brett, there’s a lot of guts there.”
Speights’ fellow freshman, shortstop Alex Boone, started the seventh with a nice pickup of a chopper up the middle to help Pinnick out of a jam.
Pinnick had a much different role last season, especially on the mound.
In their title run, the Griffins relied almost exclusively on left-hander Jared West, now at the University of Houston.
Wednesday was Pinnick’s and Chip Eubanks’ turn to shine.
“Last year, we had the big guy,” Pinnick said. “This year, we know we don’t have any guys who can shove it, so we have to go out and play.”