Perhaps the only bad thing about the best-of-three regional playoff series format is that games like the one played at Lafayette High on Friday between two old rivals don’t carry quite as much weight.
Of course, the Acadiana Wreckin’ Rams are certainly glad. That would have been an awfully rough way to end a season.
Instead, they’ll get at least one more chance after squandering a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh and watching the Mighty Lions rally for a thrilling 8-7 victory to grab a 1-0 lead in the series.
It wasn’t a perfectly played game by any means.
There were more walks, hit batsmen and errors than two teams of that stature should have had.
As LHS coach Sam Taulli put it, “It was a great game for the fans, but it wasn’t a great game for the players and coaches. I think coach (Dwayne) Olivier lost the rest of his hair today.”
Sometimes those things happen, however, when you want to win a game as badly as the Lions and Rams did Friday.
If you missed this fun, Saturday’s game two is scheduled for noon, with a potential game three shortly after.
Good luck, however, matching Friday’s classic.
This one had a little bit of everything.
There was some pretty good pitching early. Acadiana High starter John Joslin only allowed one hit through four innings – a lead-off triple to Antoine Duplantis – and trailed 1-0 going into the fifth.
LHS starter Joseph Battaglia threw four shutout innings on just two hits.
Then for the final three innings, the two pitching staffs combined to allow 14 runs. Some of it was poor pitching and some of it was poor defense. All of it provided for a roller coaster of drama.
It looked like both teams had won the game twice over those final three innings, before the Lions finally pulled it out.
“We didn’t swing the bats well at all,” Taulli said. ”But this group has done this before this year. They just find a way to win.”
From a baseball perspective, however, the true jewel in Friday’s win was the story of junior leftfielder Tyler Miller.
In his first at-bat, he struck out. In his second at-bat, Ben Reynolds was intentionally walked in front of him with two outs and he struck out again. In his third at-bat, Reynolds was again intentionally walked and he grounded out to shortstop.
Then came the bottom of the seventh. Before we get to the great at-bats that set up Miller’s heroics, his redemption is just too juicy of a story to wait.
With the game tied now and the potential game-winning run at third, Miller bunted that run home on the first pitch for the win.
“He (Miller) knew exactly what was going to happen and he knew exactly what he was going to do,” Taulli said.
“I just had to do it,” Miller said. “I was 0-for-3 and they intentionally walked twice to get to me. I usually get the bunt down. We work on it a lot at practice.
“This was one of biggest game of my life. This meant a lot to me. This team just keeps on fighting. We get down, but we keep fighting.”
While Miller ironically delivered the final blow, it certainly wasn’t the first of the game-winning frame.
As if Acadiana’s three runs in the top of the seventh to grab the 7-5 lead – sparked by a Jordan Landry RBI double – wasn’t enough of a hit in the gut for the Mighty Lions, the Rams then sent out dominant left-hander Derek Boutin to close out the win for Joslin.
Cain Castille, who had a two-run double in the Lions’ four-run fifth, led off with a single up the middle to give the LHS faithful some hope.
One batter later, Emile Lege fouled off pitch after pitch to get an RBI double and then Bo Hardin “must have seen about 12 pitches” before drawing a walk.
Truly, two textbook at-bats in terms of somehow staying alive against a powerful pitcher.
That was followed by a Rams’ fielding error to heighten Acadiana’s frustration. Going into the bottom of the seventh, Acadiana had 11 hits and the Lions had only two, but LHS also received four walks, two hit batsmen and the Rams made four errors.
The Rams won’t likely sleep well Friday night after this one.
Miller, meanwhile, will rest comfortably with the kind of huge smile that only a baseball-style redemption can give you.