It was the kind of rally that likely would have sunk a lesser team.
The Benton Tigers exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth inning to claim a 6-5 lead against the Teurlings Catholic Rebels in their Class 4A state quarterfinal game.
And then Benton starting pitcher Aaron Henigan got a quick pop out on the infield to start the bottom of the sixth.
To make things even more tense for the home team, Garrett O’Friel’s long fly ball to left then went off the top of the wall instead of over it to both chase Henigan, but also place some doubt in the minds of the Rebels’ faithful about if it was going to be Teurlings’ day.
But after all, these Rebels are the defending state champions and coach Mike Thibodeaux’s club showed the grit of a seasoned bunch by rallying for three runs off Benton reliever Jordan Shaffer in that bottom of the sixth to claim an 8-6 victory on the Teurlings Catholic campus.
“We’ve been there,” said Thibodeaux, whose 25-7 Rebels will now meet 5-4A rival St. Thomas More in the semifinals in Sulphur on Friday. “We’ve been down in district play. We were down 5-0 to St. Thomas More. I didn’t sense any panic.”
Michael Hawkins began the eventual game-winning rally with a single to left off Shaffer, before Cody Comeaux and Zach LaFleur walked to load the bases.
“The guys really came through in the clutch,” Thibodeaux said. “That was a great effort by Hawkins to make sure he got a fastball where he likes it and he smashed it.
“Then Cody and Zach did a great job of being patient and drawing walks.”
That set up Janson Bourque’s heroics with a two-run single to left for the game-winning RBIs.
“(When Benton rallied) We knew there was still time,” Bourque said. “We knew we needed to make the routine plays and get some big hits.
“I didn’t feel any more pressure. We felt like he (relief pitcher Shaffer) was more of our kind of pitcher. We just tried to keep it simple. No pressure, just see it and hit it.”
Hunter Trahan, who entered the game during Benton’s four-run sixth, then prevented any more runs scored by allowing a single in the seventh but faced only four batters to end the threat.
“That was a great high school baseball game,” Benton coach J.D. Stephens said. “Both teams made runs and played hard. That’s exactly what you want in a Louisiana high school playoff game.”
Unlike Teurlings, Stevens said the Tigers (27-10) aren’t as seasoned — with one senior starting and only two total seniors — so that kind of a game can pay off in the future.
“That was a great experience for our guys,” he said. “We had a good shot. I’ll take that every time — a one-run lead in the sixth with a chance to win the game.”
Stephens said he told Benton starter Henigan that as soon as any batter reached in the sixth inning, he would be relieved.
Sulphur 7, Ruston 4: At Ruston, Ruston’s Ivan Wilson clubbed three home runs in Monday’s second-round Class 5A playoff game, but Wilson’s power display wasn’t enough, as the 13th-seeded Tornados stunned the Bearcats.
Sulphur’s Cole Lavergne smashed two home runs of his own, including a three-run shot that started a five-run, sixth inning.
Ruston pitcher David Michael Burkhalter had recovered from Lavergne’s two-run home run in the first inning to keep the Tornadoes off the board in the next four frames, but Sulphur erased a 3-2 Ruston lead for good in the sixth.
Brooks Morris and Kale Breaux singled ahead of Lavergne’s second home run, and Caleb Mural and Bayne Smith singled in two more runs to give Sulphur a 7-3 lead.