Central Catholic's Brooks Thomas makes a diving catch in the top photo, while above, the Eagles' Bryce Grizzaffi steals second base during Central Catholic's Division IV semifinal contest with top-seed Ouachita Christian at McMurry Park in Sulphur Wednesday. Central Catholic fell 3-1. (The Daily Review/Photos by Geoff Stoute)
Lack of timely hitting dooms CCHS in 3-1 loss to OCS
Central Catholic received enough quality pitching and solid defense to win Wednesday’s Division IV semifinal contest against top-seed Ouachita Christian.
What the Eagles lack, however, was timely hitting, which ultimately sealed the team’s fate in a 3-1 loss.
Central Catholic (22-11) left one runner apiece in scoring position in the first, second and third innings, but Ouachita Christian pitcher Ty Pankey and his defense were able to come away unscathed.
In the fourth, the Eagles loaded the bases with no outs but could only manage one run via a ball to the backstop that Carter Williams scored on.
“This game came down to the opportunities we had earlier in the game and just didn’t take advantage of them,” Central Catholic Coach Tyler Jensen said. “We talked about it all year. The way to win baseball games, especially in the postseason is pitch, play defense, get timely hits.”
While the Eagles struggled to score, pitcher Luke Barbier kept the Eagles in the game as he allowed just a double off the centerfield wall in the first four innings and fanned five.
In the top of the fourth, Central Catholic loaded the bases with no outs after back-to-back singles by Williams and Barbier and Hunter Daigle reached safely on a bunt that stayed fair.
During Caleb Menina’s at bat, Williams came home when a pitch got to the backstop.
However, that was all the Eagles could get as Menina hit a rocket but right to the first baseman, Grant Stansbury reached on an error, but Daigle was tagged out at second base and then Brooks Thomas, who made two great defensive catches, flied out to left field.
In the bottom of the fifth, Ouachita Christian (32-5) tied the game at 1 when Connor Mulhern doubled down the left field line to score a run.
Ouachita Christian took the lead in the bottom of the sixth with two more runs.
With one out, Bailey Burtram doubled to the leftfield wall, and the Eagles elected to intentionally walk Clint Hargrave.
Barbier hit the next batter, Dale Fulmer, to load the bases and then hit the following batter, Cole Hathaway, after the Eagles’ pitcher had battled back from a 3-0 count for a 3-2 count, to give Ouachita Christian a 2-1 lead.
The next batter, Hunter Herring, singled to left field to score another run, and Jensen brought in Menina in relief.
Menina struck out the first batter and got the second to fly out to Daigle in left field.
“Credit to Luke and Menina, the job they did on the mound,” Jensen said. “Credit to our defense. We just didn’t get enough big hits. That’s just what it came down to.”
Barbier pitched 5.1 innings and surrendered three earned runs on five hits with one walk, two hit batters and five strikeouts.
Menina pitched 0.2 innings and fanned one.
After running into some trouble early on, Pankey settled in after the fourth inning and retired nine straight Eagles to end the game.
In seven innings, he surrendered one unearned run on five hits with one walk and six strikeouts.
Offensively, Barbier led Central Catholic with a 2-for-3 performance with a double.
Meanwhile, Mulhern led Ouachita Christian with a 1-for-3 performance with a double and an RBI.
Other top Ouachita Christian contributors were Hargrave, 1-for-2 with a double and a run; Burtram, 1-for-3, a double and a run; and Hathaway and Herring, each 1-for-2 with an RBI.
Wednesday’s game was the final one for Central Catholic’s seniors, Thomas, Bryce Grizzaffi, Hunter Daigle and Sammy Spitale.
“They were a great group of guys,” Jensen said. “What I told them is they’ve done a really good job with this team. A lot of people doubted us, especially later in the year, about what we would be able to accomplish. They did a good job holding this team together, and they won a lot of games together. They’ve made three state tournament appearances. They’ve won a state championship. They got a state runner-up. You can’t argue with those results.”
While the Eagles do return quite a bit of talent next year, regardless, Jensen said that the goal is always to win a state title.
“For a little while, we’ll sit back and enjoy the success we had this year, but at the same time, I told them after we need to remember how this feels, because we were a couple plays away from winning this and having another shot at one (a state title),” he said.