Natchitoches Central played winning baseball Monday evening at West Monroe. The Chiefs just didn’t win.
Second-seeded West Monroe, a perennial LHSAA baseball powerhouse, held off the No. 31-seeded Chiefs 2-1 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
All of the scoring came in the first inning, when NCHS grabbed a quick lead and WMHS responded with a pair of unearned runs in the bottom half. The Chiefs outhit the Rebels 7-4, but left seven runners on base, five stranded in scoring position, with one thrown out at the plate.
“We didn’t look nervous tonight. This is a tough environment, and it didn’t look like it was too much for us. We handled it well,” said NCHS head coach Regan Kaufman. “We put ourselves in a really good position to win, but just couldn’t cash in with the big hit to get runners in scoring position across the plate.
Senior pitcher Matt Dunn rose to the occasion, keeping the dangerous West Monroe offense off balance with five shutout innings after the first. He was one out away from keeping the Rebels off the board.
“Matty gave us an excellent start. You couldn’t ask for better,” said Kaufman.
The Chiefs got a two-out base hit from Baden Turlington and an RBI single from Connor Stokes to jump on top. Dunn doubled but Stokes’ courtesy runner, Matthew Hinds, couldn’t score and West Monroe pitcher Lane Little got a strikeout to strand Chiefs at second and third.
A two-out error in the bottom of the first chased home two runners in scoring position and pushed the Rebels on top for good.
Stokes doubled to lead off the fourth and Dunn followed with a bunt single. Runners were sacrificed into scoring position but Hinds was thrown out at the plate on a fielder’s choice and Little notched a strikeout to escape the other prime NCHS threat.
“We played extremely well. We did everything right, we outplayed them in every aspect, just not on that scoreboard. It’s just how crazy baseball can be,” said Kaufman. “I’m very proud of these guys.”
In the 13th one-run game this spring, NCHS (14-21) suffered its 10th one-run defeat.
It was the final contest at NCHS for seniors Jessie Taitano Jr., Dunn, Stokes and Turlington.