It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Not again.
Not for the nine Ruston seniors that, after four straight district championships, had put in the work so a second round exit like 2013 would be avoided.
But the quarterfinals will have to wait at least one more year.
No. 9 Catholic-Baton Rouge swept a doubleheader from No. 8 Ruston Saturday afternoon at Bearcat Field to win the second round, best-of-three series 2-1 and advance to the LHSAA Class 5A quarterfinals.
Ruston came into the day leading the series 1-0 and needing just one win Saturday to win the series. Catholic (26-11) won Game 2 early Saturday 3-0 after a dominating pitching performance from 2013 All-Stater Ross Massey.
Massey, a key component to the 2013 state championship by the Bears, pitched a complete game shutout, scattering three hits and striking out seven Bearcats.
“He (Massey) was just lights out,” Ruston coach Toby White said. “We just did not get the timely hits we needed when we needed them.”
Ruston (24-13) got their own solid outing from senior pitcher David Michael Burkhalter in the opening game Saturday.
Burkhalter pitched through four innings unscathed until the fifth inning when catcher Nick Coomes delivered an RBI double and Burkhalter hit two batters — the second of which came with the bases loaded.
Catholic extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the sixth on a RBI single by Coomes.
CATHOLIC TAKES GAME 3, 6-3
The Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the nightcap on Saturday and then held tight during a furious Ruston rally for a 6-3 win to advance to the quarterfinals.
Croomes got the scoring started when he reached safely on a dropped third strike, scoring Massey who had led off the inning with a single and advanced later on a walk by right fielder Bo Branch and sacrifice bunt by shortstop Josh Smith. Second baseman Hunter D’Armond then came through with a suicide squeeze bunt and everyone was safe, and the Bears had grabbed a 2-0 lead.
The Bears then went up 3-0 in top of the fourth following back-to-back singles by third baseman Hayden Mixon and Massey before a throwing error and a wild pitch brought home Mixon.
Ruston then came alive offensively in the bottom of the fourth when right fielder Caden Doga and third baseman Seth White hit back-to-back RBI singles.
Yet, for the third time on the day, the Bearcats would leave the bases loaded and still trailing.
“Give Catholic credit, they pitched really well which is what you have to do in the playoffs,” Toby White said. “We had talked to our team since district began about getting runs in these kind of games, getting the timely hit. We didn’t do that.”
Ruston rallied with a single run from an RBI single by outfielder Cannon Brasuell, but a pair of strikeouts by Bears reliever Connor Whalen ended the threat and began the celebration for the visitors.
Despite the season ending earlier than Ruston would have liked, the head coach will fondly remember the year for not just another district title, but the heart the senior class showed day after day.
“This one hurts, and it should hurt,” White said. “But I will sleep tonight because those kids fought their tails off.”