CCHS falls in state finals for 2nd straight year
By GEOFF STOUTE
MONROE — A day after taking down the giant, Central Catholic couldn’t quite handle the dragon.
The No. 2 Mangham High School Dragons rallied from a 2-0 first-inning deficit to defeat No. 5 Central Catholic, 4-2, in Saturday’s Class 1A title game at Warhawk Field at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
The title was the first for Mangham’s baseball team.
“It feels great,” Mangham Coach Scott Wilcher said of winning the first title. “We’ve been knocking on the door the last six out of 10 years and to finally get one, I can’t explain how it feels.”
Saturday’s loss was the second straight in the Class 1A finals for Central Catholic. A year ago, Central Catholic was run-ruled by Ouachita Christian School, 10-0, in five innings in the Class 1A title game.
Jensen said it wasn't easy to address his team after losing in the title game again.
“It’s the second straight year,” he said. “It doesn’t get any easier. This one was really hard to swallow because of the way the game happened. Losing in the state championship, losing period (and) your season ending, losing seniors, (it) never gets easy.”
While Jensen said his team got out early like it wanted to, it just could not keep manufacturing the hits it needed to drive in base runners.
“We couldn’t get a big hit throughout the game,” he said. “We had multiple opportunities and give him (Mangham pitcher Ridge Heisler) credit. He settled in, and he had us baffled there at the end. We put a charge in a couple balls in the last couple innings just right at people. Just that type of day. Our guys fought to the very end and did about all we could do.”
The Eagles jumped on Mangham (28-8) in the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Josh Singleton walked and advanced to second base on pitcher Bryson Barbier’s sacrifice bunt.
Singleton advanced to third on a throw to first base on Barron Courtney’s groundout and scored on Samuel Guarisco’s RBI single to right field over a leaping attempt at a catch by Mangham first baseman Lance Romero. Guarisco scored two batters later on Luke Landry’s single to right-centerfield.
The Eagles put a runner on base in the second inning after Singleton reached on an error by Mangham third baseman Jess Glass, and while he tried to score on Barbier’s single to right-centerfield, he was tagged out at home plate to end the inning.
Mangham, after going down nearly in order in the top of the first, began to claw their way back into the game in the second inning.
Trey Cureington connected on a one-out double to right field and later advanced to third base on a wild pitch.
After Barbier induced a pop-out for the inning’s second out, center fielder Cody Turner singled to Guarisco, who got a throw off to first base that Courtney scooped up. However, the umpire ruled Turner safe on the play, allowing Cureington to score.
In the third inning, Central Catholic again put a runner on base, this time at second when Guarisco singled and then stole second base with one out. However, Mangham starter Ridge Heisler got out of the game via a strikeout and a groundout.
Meanwhile, in the bottom of the third inning, Mangham tied the game on a two-out solo bomb over the left field fence by Dylan Ridgeway.
Again in the top of the fourth, Central Catholic tried to rally as Tyler Hoffpauir led off the inning with a double and Nick Case put down a bunt single that couldn’t be fielded.
But again, Heisler got out of the inning as he got Case at second base on a fielder’s choice and Singleton and Barbier struck out and grounded out, respectively.
Mangham took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth following a sacrifice fly to center field by Turner that scored Cureington. Cureington had led off the inning with a single.
“We’ve fallen behind a lot this year, and we don’t ever quit,” Wilcher said. “The kids battle back. We work through adversity. Even in practices we set it up where we have to work through them things, and it paid off today.”
Mangham’s lead marked the first time all postseason Central Catholic has trailed.
Despite giving up the lead, Barbier got out of the inning with no more damage as Mangham left the bases loaded following a fly out to centerfield.
Mangham added another run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI-single to center field by Garrett Dye, while the home team left the bases loaded again in the bottom of the sixth.
Meanwhile, Central Catholic was held hitless the final three innings and went down in order in the top of the seventh.
Guarisco led Central Catholic at the plate with a 2-for-3 performance with an RBI and a run, while Landry finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and Hoffpauir, 1-for-3 with a double.
Barbier took the complete-game loss as he surrendered four runs — three earned — on 11 hits with two walks and three strikeouts in six innings of work.
Cureington finished 3-for-3 with a double and a run for Mangham, while Turner, who was named the state tournament's Class 1A Most Outstanding Player, finished 1-for-2 with two RBIs. Other top Mangham batters included Ridgeway, 1-for-3 with a home run, an RBI and a run, while Dye was 1-for-3 with an RBI and Luke Watts, 2-for-2.
Heisler earned the win as he surrendered two earned runs on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts in seven innings of work.
Saturday’s loss was Central Catholic’s first in 14 games. Their last defeat was a 6-4 loss to Central of Baton Rouge on March 26.
The loss also meant the end of the careers of seven Central Catholic seniors, who Jensen called “really hard-working guys.”
“Those guys led us to 14 straight wins, a district championship, state runner up … We’re going to miss ’em. We got some huge holes to fill next year,” he said.