CCHS holds off late charge by No. 1 OCS to advance to finals
By GEOFF STOUTE
MONROE — No. 5 seed Central Catholic came into Friday’s state semifinal against top-seed Ouachita Christian looking for revenge, and revenge they got.
But it took a last inning stand to get it.
Central Catholic’s Bryson Barbier, on in relief of freshman starter Samuel Guarisco, stopped a furious Ouachita Christian rally in the bottom of the seventh inning with a bases-loaded strikeout to preserve an 8-7 Central Catholic victory.
While Central Catholic and Guarisco had kept Ouachita Christian at bay for much of the game, except for a three-run fourth inning, Guarisco ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh as Ouachita Christian began to rally.
Ouachita Christian scored four runs on six hits in the inning to turn an 8-3 game into a nail-biting 8-7 deficit.
While Ouachita Christian scored its first run on a groundout to second base for the second out of the inning, Central Catholic had trouble securing the game’s third out as Ouachita Christian continually pounded the baseball.
Consecutive RBI hits, a double by Jon Washam down the left field line and a single by Cade Harper past a diving attempt by Central Catholic first baseman Barron Courtney into right field scored two more runs to cut the deficit to 8-6.
Central Catholic then switched pitchers and brought in Barbier, who ran into the same trouble, as he surrendered consecutive singles, the second by Jake Slaughter to score Harper and cut the lead to 8-7.
After Austin Allen walked to load the bases, Barbier took Tanner Pennebaker to a 2-2 count before striking him out on a swinging third strike to preserve the victory and avenge last year’s five-inning, 10-0 defeat to Ouachita Christian in the state title game.
“I came in, threw strikes and it just went our way,” Barbier said.
While Barbier had the dramatic finish, it capped off an impressive outing by Guarisco.
Friday’s start was Guarisco’s first since late April. Barbier had earned the first three playoff victories for the Eagles.
Central Catholic coach Tyler Jensen said looking toward a possible berth in the state title game had no bearing on his decision to start Guarisco.
“I was tossing and turning about it all week,” he said. “I don’t like to throw guys on three days’ rest. … I talked to Bryson earlier this morning. He told me he wasn’t 100 percent. He told me flat out to my face he trusted Samuel, and so do I.”
And as for Guarisco’s performance?
“It’s huge,” Jensen said. “For a kid his age, his class, to be able to walk up on the mound at 7 o’clock at (the) University of Louisiana-Monroe against the No. 1 team in the state who 10-run-ruled us last year, to be able to pitch like that says volumes. I don’t know if there’s anybody else that I’ve coached or been around that could have handled that situation better than he did.”
Guarisco said he was nervous about getting the start against Ouachita Christian and said he was surprised he did so well.
While Guarisco had a good showing on the mound, so did the Eagles’ hitters at the plate.
David Joe Branch, who had limited Central Catholic to just three hits in last year’s title game, took the mound for Friday's game, and he got off rocky as he lasted just 1.1 innings and surrendered four hits, six earned runs and walked four.
Central Catholic plated two runs with two outs in the first inning on a two-RBI single to center field by Luke Landry.
Ouachita Christian got out of the inning with no more damage, while Central Catholic left the bases loaded.
In the second, Central Catholic had its biggest inning of the contest as it scored four runs on three hits, including an RBI-single to center field by Guarisco that scored Austin Autin, who began the inning with an infield single to Jordan Washam.
With the bases loaded, Branch hit Dominick Guarisco with a pitch to bring in another run, prompting Ouachita Christian to bring in freshman standout Aaron George.
The Eagles scored two more runs in the inning, one on a fielder’s choice by Landry and another on a Nick Case infield single to shortstop to increase the Eagles’ advantage to 6-0.
While the Central Catholic offense was solid, Guarisco also made his mark on the mound as he retired Ouachita Christian in order during the first two innings and got out of a jam in the bottom of the third with runners on first and third with one out when Braden Bristo fanned and Colby Webb grounded out to second base.
Meanwhile, Central Catholic plated another two runs in the top of the fourth inning — one on Case’s single to center field that scored one and another on the same play on an error by Bristo for a commanding 8-0 advantage.
Ouachita Christian finally got its first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth on Jordan Washam’s double down the right field line, while two batters later, Harper drove in the home squad’s first run on a single to right field. It was the first of three consecutive RBI-singles that helped Ouachita Christian cut the deficit to 8-3.
Defensively, Ouachita Christian quieted the Central Catholic offense for the remainder of the game as they brought in Bristo, a Louisiana Tech signee, to pitch.
In his three innings of work, he limited the Eagles to just a hit, a single by Barbier to center field in the fifth, walked one and fanned six.
Meanwhile, Ouachita Christian's offense could not put any more runs across until the bottom of the seventh.
Samuel Guarisco earned the win as he surrendered seven earned runs on 10 hits with two walks and fanned one in 6.2 innings of work. Barbier got the save as he surrendered two hits, a walk and struck out one in 0.1 innings of work.
At the plate, Landry led Central Catholic with a 2-for-4 performance with three RBIs and a run, while Case finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs; Samuel Guarisco, 2-for-4, an RBI; and Dominick Guarisco, an RBI.
Branch suffered the loss for Ouachita Christian.
Graves led Ouachita Christian at the plate as he finished 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Harper finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs. Other top contributors for Ouachita Christian included Jon Washam, 2-for-4, a double and an RBI; Slaughter, 2-for-3, two runs; Jordan Washam, 1-for-4, a double, an RBI and a run; and Colby Webb, 1-for-4, a double and a run.