Normally, a pair of late errors that lead to a loss would have a coach irate.
Not West Monroe baseball coach Wade Simoneaux. In the lone run, he’s convinced it might end up being beneftial to the Rebels.
West Monroe committed two errors in the top of the sixth inning that led to a run as Airline snapped the Rebels’ 13-game win streak with a 2-1 victory Tuesday at Shelby Aulds Field.
“I told my team … if we would have won tonight and beat Nachitoches Central on a 17-game win streak (heading into the playoffs), think of the Kentucky Wildcats,” said Simoneaux, who coached at Louisiana Tech for the past 12 years. “They were undefeated and one loss and they were done.”
“It stings, and I wanted them to get stung somewhere along the line. Of course we don’t want to lose to anybody but one loss like that isn’t going to hurt this team. I think it’s going to help us actually.”
The non-district game between two of the states top teams — No. 7 Airline and No. 11 West Monroe — certainly lived up to the billing with strong pitching and timely hitting in what Airline coach Toby Todd called a “playoff-type atmosphere.”
The miscues were key, though.
With West Monroe starter Hayden Frost cruising, the Rebels were guilty of an error on a potential strikeout. A catchable fly ball in right field fell in later in the inning as Airline finally broke through with its first run since the first inning.
Airline’s Hyaden Waxley ripped an RBI single with the bases loaded for the eventual game-winning hit.
“Had a clutch hit. We’ve played them every year for the past four years and usually it’s close,” Todd said. “Last year they pounded us, so it was good to get back.”
Kyle Backofen picked up the win for Airline with six innings of one-run ball. He allowed four hits and struck out seven.
Airline lost Chandler Neal’s fly ball in the lights for a double to give West Monroe a second chance in the seventh, but Ole Miss commit Andrew Lowe ended the game for the Vikings with a fly ball.
“We only gave up (three) hits tonight against a good Airline team. It was well pitched by both teams,” Simoneaux said. “The miscues do hurt, and that’s going to be the difference in a close game like this.”
Slade Bolden and Taylor Young both had multi-hit games for West Monroe.
Wexley went 2-for-2 with the RBI to lead Airline.
Dustin Mitchell came in on relief of Frost in the top of the sixth with one out after an error by catcher Nick Schexnaider on a bouncing ball in the dirt allowed a runner to reach on a strikeout.
West Monroe appeared to be out of the jam, but Landon Mims misplayed Jarrett Bamburg’s blooper to right field to put runners on the corners with two outs.
After an Airline walk, Waxley singled up the middle to score Peyton Coker to give Airline the lead.
Frost allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings of work to take the loss for the Rebels.
The game was tied at 1-1 for most of the before, although West Monroe had its best chance in the fifth.
A single and an error gave West Monroe an opportunity to score, but Backofen worked out of the jam with a ground out and a strikeout.
“Usually his stuff is kind of electric but tonight he had to pitch, and he did. He made pitches,” Todd said of Backofen. “They had a lot of runners on and he pitched his way out of those situations. I was really proud with the way he competed on the mound.”
Airline jumped on West Monroe in the first with an RBI single to left field from Peyton Davis that bounced past the Rebels’ Jacob Pearson in left field to score Tanner Daniel.
Mims scampered home on a wild pitch in the second for West Monroe to tie it up at 1-1.
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Rebels honor former softball player Amy Avant
The West Monroe baseball team honored former softball player Amy Avant before Tuesday’s game against Airline.
Avant, who was a four-year starter for the Lady Rebels from 1986-89, passed away this past November after a multi-year battle with breast cancer.
West Monroe wore pink jerseys Tuesday to honor Avant and several other breast cancer survivors.
Avant participated in track and field at West Monroe but is most remember for her play on the softball field. The left-handed first baseman was a two-time all-state selection and earned a 3.9 GPA before playing at St. Thomas University in Miami.
She later worked as a nurse, but was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 41.