Eagles upset St. John, advance to quarterfinals
By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
PLAQUEMINE — No. 10 Central Catholic may have faced a quality pitcher in St. John’s Hunter Schnebelen, but during Tuesday’s Class 1A second round matchup here, the Eagles’ hitters pounded the St. John standout as if it was a batting practice session.
The Eagles jumped out to a 4-0 first inning and set the tone early for a dominating performance in a 7-0 win against No. 7 seed St. John.
The game was quite different than when the two squads met in the regional round a year ago, when St. John dominated CCHS, 13-3.
“I think it’s a sign of us growing up and wanting to be better,” CCHS coach Tyler Jensen, who will lead his squad to the quarterfinals for the first time in six years, said. “We got off the bus last year against these guys, and we were scared to death. We walked out here today ready to play. Nobody was talking. Nobody was cutting up. They really didn’t know what to do when we took it to him.”
The Eagles (18-10) got to Schnebelen early as CCHS’ first six batter reached base.
When the St. John coaching staff took Schnebelen out, the Eagles had the bases loaded with no outs and a 4-0 lead.
The Eagles began the game with three consecutive singles by Josh Singleton, Austin Autin (a bunt) and Barron Courtney, respectively.
Singleton scored the game’s first run on an error by the St. John catcher.
Autin scored the game’s second run when a Schnebelen pitch got past the catcher, while Eriq Blanchard reached on an error by the third baseman, which allowed Courtney to score the third run.
After Dominick Guarisco walked to load the bases, St. John reliever Christopher Bordelon was brought in.
He surrendered a sacrifice fly to Nick Case before Seth Gulotta converted a double play on a line out to first base to escape any more damage.
“He had pretty good stuff,” Jensen said of Schnebelen. “We just had a really good mindset at the plate. We told Josh before the game that his at bat was going to mean a lot in this game. Josh had a very aggressive at bat, and it set the tone for the whole game.”
While the Eagles couldn’t push across any more runs until the fifth inning, the squad’s pitching and defense did its part. CCHS starter Autin escaped threats with runners at third base in the bottom of the second when Bordelon grounded out to third base and in the third when Autin forced a groundout and a flyout after runners reached second and third base with one out.
While Autin had not surrendered a hit, he struggled at times to find the strike zone (he walked five in three innings) and was replaced in the bottom of the fourth after he walked the first two St. John batters. However, the Eagles still continued to stymie the Eagles as reliever Nick Longman forced two popups and a groundout to get the Eagles out of the inning, even though St. John had advanced runners to second and third base.
St. John managed just two hits on the afternoon, both fifth-inning singles.
The CCHS defense made several solid defensive plays behind its pitching staff, including Autin — who had switched to right field after Longman came in to pitch — fielding a single and rifling a throw to Landry, the Eagles’ third baseman, who tagged Michael Booksh out at third. In the seventh, Ridge Rousseau, who replaced Case at first base when Longman entered the game, also made a catch in foul territory near the fence and the CCHS dugout on a St. John popup that appeared as if it would leave the park before coming back into play.
“I said at the beginning of the year defense would be one of our strengths, and we went through a stretch there (where) it was one of our weaknesses,” Jensen said. “Lately, we’re playing a lot better defense.”
In addition to the first inning, the Eagles added another run in the fifth and added two more in the seventh for the final.
“Our guys never cease to amaze me,” Jensen said. “We’re getting better. We’re playing our best baseball at the right time.”
With the win, the Eagles will host No. 2 seed and District 8-1A foe Vermilion Catholic in the quarterfinals. Vermilion Catholic advanced to the third round of the playoffs after defeating No. 15 seed Archbishop Hannan, 11-1.