The St. Mary’s baseball team had more than its share of frustration Thursday evening in the first game of a best-of-three LHSAA Class A quarterfinal playoff series with visiting Catholic-Pointe Coupee – and still almost won.
But this is a brand new day, says Tigers’ coach Brooks McMinn, and St. Mary’s is still alive and kicking, needing two wins this afternoon to reach next week’s state tournament in Sulphur.
The teams tangle at 4 o’clock at Cracker Brown Field in the east Natchitoches recreation complex. A St. Mary’s win will set up a winner-take-all third game likely starting around 7 this evening.
“I’m glad it’s a two-out-of-three series,” said McMinn. “Our opportunity is still in front of us. We’ve got to shake off (Thursday night) and regroup. We get to play, and a lot of teams are sitting home now.”
Fifth-seeded Catholic-Pointe Coupee rallied to win with three runs in the top of the seventh Thursday night. By then, fourth-seeded St. Mary’s (28-7) had been denied three runs on two questionable calls at the plate – two runs erased in a bizarre sequence ending the Tigers’ fifth inning.
With two out and a runner on second, a Tigers’ hitter swung and missed on a two-strike pitch picked out of the dirt by the visitors’ catcher. He rolled the ball out to the mound when it appeared he should have thrown to first to complete the final out, by rule, when a third strike is not fielded cleanly by the catcher.
The Tigers didn’t abandon the field, but rounded the bases, believing the ball was still in play. Both runners scored. But the plate umpire ruled the strike was caught, and the inning was over. McMinn challenged the call, and after discussion, the umpiring crew agreed, ruling the runs scored and the inning would continue.
Then after protests by the Catholic-Pointe Coupee coach, the umpires reverted back to the original call – inning over, no runs scored. Instead of being up 6-3, St. Mary’s led 4-3 going to the sixth.
The Tigers were turned away at home in their next chance. In a “bang-bang” play at the plate on a passed ball, a Tiger tried to score from third base but was ruled out. CPCHS used a pair of walks and a couple of hits to score the winning runs in its final at-bat, and St. Mary’s couldn’t answer.
“The controversial calls didn’t go our way,” said McMinn. “But we also hurt our own cause by making four errors, something we hadn’t done all spring.”
The teams each posted two runs in the first inning. The visitors pushed ahead 3-2 before Patrick Vienne clubbed a two-run home run in the bottom of the third.
“Our kids fought,” said McMinn. “We weren’t at our best but we battled. We didn’t get overwhelmed by the other team, we just had some bad breaks. No reason we can’t come back and get it done (Friday).”