Designated hitter Patrick Crouch’s two-out double scored Chance DeFriend, breaking a sixth-inning scoreless tie and leading the No. 2-seed Evangel Eagles back to the state semifinals with a 2-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 10-seeded St. Charles Catholic in Class 3A state playoff action Monday at Durward Rust Field
Evangel (27-9), the defending champions in Class 2A, advance to face No. 6-seed Brusly on Friday at 6 p.m. at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Brusly defeated No. 19-seeded West Feliciana, 3-1, on Monday to advance.
“I got a couple of homers early in the season, and that kind of got me trying to hit more,” said Crouch, who hit a two-strike fastball from St. Charles pitcher Mason Bordelon into the left-center gap, then later scored on John Michael Boswell’s double down the third base line. “It kind of messed my timing up, and I’ve been working hard to get it locked back in.
“My hands were real relaxed, and he got it up on the inside half a little bit. I just got a good swing on it.”
Evangel head coach Tim Hullett was happy that it was Crouch hitting in that situation.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else up there in that spot,” said Hullett. “Patrick is a great hitter, one of our best, and he’s been working very hard this year.”
The Eagles’ pitching trio of Austin McWhiney, Shane Miears and Brooks Bryan combined to hold the Comets to just two singles while striking out 10. Miears took over to start the fourth, and struck out six in three innings of work, while Bryan, who has allowed just one run in 29 innings pitched this season, fanned the final two hitters to preserve the shutout.
“I felt really comfortable coming in there,” said Miears, who has worked as a starter and reliever at various times during the season. “I had my stuff, and I just wanted to hold them where they were until we could get some runs.”
When Evangel scored two in the sixth, Hullett knew it was time for his closer.
“Few teams at this level have the luxury of going to a closer of his caliber,” said Hullett. “When we scored, I felt like it was over with Brooks closing it out.”
St. Charles threatened to take the lead in the third inning, when McWhiney loaded the bases on two hit batters and a fielding error. The threat ended on a bizarre play, however, as runner Justin Ory was called out at home on appeal for failing to touch home plate when McWhiney hit Austin Weber with a pitch.
“That was great, heads-up play by our catcher, Ryne Ray,” said Hullett. “He and the umpire both saw that the kid clearly missed the plate. It’s a strange play, but it was the right call.”
St. Charles coach Wayne Stein agreed.
“It was the right call, no doubt about that,” said Stein, who’s squad finishes at 24-10. “It’s just tough when a game of this magnitude turns on a play like that. If we score there, we might have put up several runs and really made it hard on them.”