NCHS baseball season ends with one-run playoff loss; SMHS plays Thursday

Benton rallied late to overtake Natchitoches Central and ended the Chiefs’ best baseball season this century with a 5-4 win Saturday at Chad Hargis Field, capturing the best-of-three LHSAA Non-Select Division I first-round series 2-0.

The Tigers won two hard-fought games, edging the Chiefs 3-1 Thursday evening in the series opener. It looked like NCHS was going to force a third and decisive game later Saturday but Benton rallied from a 3-0 deficit, scoring all of its runs in its last four chances.

The Tigers walked it off on a Kenner Lauterbach sacrifice fly to centerfield that scored Bryson Pierce in the bottom of the seventh.

Cale Latimer was 2-for-3 for the Tigers with a home run and three pitchers limited the Chiefs to four hits, walked two and struck out 10.

NCHS (24-11) scored three-runs in the top of the first inning. Dillion Braxton, Cooper Hudson and Titus Williams all had RBI to get the Chiefs going. Braxton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then Hudson and Williams drew walks.

Benton made a pitching change and the Chiefs didn’t score again until the fifth inning. Alex Dupuy reached on an error and later scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by Braxton.

Benton broke through an inning earlier with a fielder’s choice groundout. In the bottom of the fifth (Benton was the designated home team in the second game of the series), Latimer’s two-run homer to left got the Tigers within 4-3.

The visitors tied it with two out in the sixth on a single and an outfield error. The decisive run in the bottom of the seventh scored after a leadoff walk, a groundout and a passed ball gave Lauterbach the chance for the game-winning sac fly.

The Chiefs were limited to four singles and drew four walks. The Tigers scored three unearned runs, helped by two NCHS errors.

TIGERS PLAY THURSDAY: St. Mary’s and Ouachita Christian have agreed to play their second-round Select Division IV game Thursday at 6 in Monroe. The game will be played at OCS’ Micah Harper Field.

St. Mary’s, seeded 16th, routed 17th-seeded St. Edmond’s 10-0 last Thursday at Cracker Brown Field. Ouachita Christian is the No. 1 seed in the playoff bracket.