All the opponents of the three-game regional and quarterfinal series in Class 5A and 4A should have seen this doozy played Friday and Saturday at Lafayette High.
Truthfully, this one probably deserved seven games, and even then, I’m still not convinced very much would have been decided … other than which team got to advance to the state tournament, of course.
On Saturday, that team was the defending state champion Barbe Buccaneers.
After squeaking out a 3-2 win in game one on Friday, the Bucs saw a 10-3 lead evaporate into a 15-13 loss in game two and then overcame watching a 5-0 lead totally disappear before rallying for two runs in the top of the seventh for a come-from-behind 7-6 win the deciding third game.
The Bucs will now meet another District 3-5A foe in Sulphur at 7 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at McMurry Park in Sulphur.
“I’ve been coaching for 29 years and I’ve never seen a better series,” Barbe coach Glenn Cecchini said. “It was back-and-forth, like a heavyweight fight. I have the utmost respect for Lafayette High’s program, their coaches and their players – fierce competitors.”
Early on Saturday, it appears like it might be a ho-hum series clincher for the visiting Bucs. Barbe rallied for five runs in the second inning – powered by a Kirkland Banks RBI double and Braden Comeaux two-run homer – to seize a 6-0 lead.
After the Lions countered with a two-run homer by Antoine Duplantis and a Cain Cain RBI triple, the Bucs actually increased that lead to 10-3 with a four-run third, thanks to a three-run Marshall Alexander homer.
Normally, that’s plenty enough for a program like Barbe’s. Typically, though, they’re not playing against a lineup like coach Sam Taulli’s Mighty Lions possess.
Not only did the Lions make a run with their season on the line, they amazingly would soon own a five-run lead in the game, thanks to a memorable eight-run fifth inning.
“That doesn’t happen very often (overcoming leads of seven and five runs on the same day),” Taulli said. “Our kids are fantastic.
“I didn’t see 15-13 coming. I also didn’t think we’d be down 10-3, but I know Barbe feels like they’re never out of it. Hopefully, our kids feel that way going into next season after this series. It was a great series. It’s just a shame both teams can’t advance.”
In that eight-run fifth, singles by Castille and Hudson Laborde got it going, but the big hit was a grand slam by senior rightfielder Ben Reynolds to cut the lead to 10-8. It was the first homer of his career.
“At least I’ve seen him hit a few in practice,” Taulli laughed.
Then came a single by Seth Doiga to set the table for Lafayette High’s second rally of that inning. That may sound routine, but that was Doiga’s first hit of the season. Two innings before, was actually his first varsity at-bat of the season.
Doiga later singled and scored in the Lions’ three-run sixth as well
“He was one of our better JV hitters this season,” Taulli said. “He did a great job for us today.”
Doiga’s first run was powered by Branson Audette’s clutch three-run double to left to give LHS the lead for good after Duplantis was intentionally walked.
“Yes, we had a 10-3 lead, but we didn’t give it away,” Cecchini said. “They earned it. Our kids were making pitches and they were just hitting them.
“I felt like we were playing against ourselves. We kept battling and they kept battling. We put pressure on you and they put pressure on you. It was incredible.”
Reliever Adam Arnold got the win in that game one, giving up no earned runs and five hits in 3.1 innings. Ironically, Brant McNease was the losing pitcher, giving up four hits and three runs in no official innings.
Cecchini said he regretted how he handled McNease’s warmup routine before bringing him into Saturday’s first game, and pulling Bucs’ starter Tyler Booth too quickly.
Ironically, McNease would give Barbe a gutsy 4.1 innings in the third game and Booth would get the win in relief.
“We wanted to win or lose with the guys who got us here,” Cecchini said. “Nothing against anybody else, but I really believe in that.”
Then after the seven-run lead didn’t work in the first game Saturday, Barbe jumped out to a 5-0 lead in game three off LHS starter Emile Lege. Hunter Feduccia’s RBI single got it started, but five walks, two hit batsmen and a Lion error, as well as a Braden Comeaux RBI single helped the Bucs get to that 5-0 lead.
“Believe me, at 5-0, I didn’t feel comfortable,” Cecchini said.
And sure enough, the Lions got four runs in the third and two more in the fifth to grab a 6-5 lead.
Duplantis singled to ignite the four-run rally that included RBI singles by Castille and Leger and a two-run single by Hardin.
“They have so many good hitters,” Cecchini said. “Duplantis is one of the best players I’ve ever coached against. I really believe he’s going to be a Major League hitter after his career at LSU.”
In the fifth, Laborde crushed a two-run homer to give the Lions a 6-5 lead.
By that time, Lege had corralled his early wildness and the Bucs were about to begin walking the plank.
That is, until Barbe’s Shane Selman blasted a long one-out homer in the top of the seventh to tie it at 6-6, and the Bucs weren’t done.
Slate Fuller walked and stolen second. One out later, Banks hit a Baltimore chop single over third to chase home the series-winning run.
“I’m old school,” said Taulli, who also agonized over walking Barbe’s No. 9 hitter Peyton Doumite four times Saturday. “I’d like to get beat on a home run or a ball in the gap. To get beat by a chopper like that kind of stings.”
The memories and feelings – both good and bad – from a series like this one figure to linger for a long time.