Sterlington 9, Ouachita Christian 8 (11 innings)
It's understandable that Dalton Dopson had a bit of an attitude as he strolled to the plate for his final at bat Saturday afternoon. For starters, the Sterlington third baseman grounded into a double play to end the ninth inning in his previous at bat. As if that weren't enough, this was the final chance for Dopson and his five senior classmates to beat arch-nemesis Ouachita Christian.
With the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 11th, Jarrett McDonald beat the throw to the plate on Dopson's ground ball to shortstop as the Panthers celebrated Senior Day with a hard-earned 9-8 victory over OCS.
Erasing an 8-7 deficit, the Panthers sent five batters to the box without making an out in the decisive 11th.
Luke Fluitt opened the frame with a double off the base of the right field wall and McDonald took a pitch off the elbow. Fluitt scored the tying run when Jacob Barr bunted and pulled in at second on a throwing error.
With first base open, OCS intentionally walked Davis Johnson to set up the force.
That's the real reason Dopson was seething as he left the on-deck circle. Simply put, he felt disrespected.
"To be honest, when the walked the guy ahead of me to pitch to me, it kind of ticked me off," Dopson admitted. "I went up there with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to end the game. Being a rivalry game made it that much better."
OCS got off to the stronger start as the two sides traded deuces and aces through the first two innings.
Ty O'Neal led off the game with a base hit to right, Bryce Wallace reached on a mishandled fly ball and Skylor Wilhite bunted, leaving runners at second and third with one out. Both runs scored off of a throwing error when the Panthers attempted to get O'Neal at the plate on Dale Fulmer's ground ball.
Barr reached on a one-out error in the bottom of the first, went to third on Johnson's double down the left field line and scored on Dopson's sacrifice fly, closing the deficit to 2-1.
OCS manufactured two more in the second to go up 4-1.
Jake Martien and Britton Mulhearn singled and O'Neal sacrificed, placing both runners in scoring position. Martien sprinted home on Wallace's RBI groundout. Skylor Wilhite's walk placed runners at the corners. Wilhite was caught between first and second, but avoided the tag long enough for Mulhearn to cross the plate.
Sterlington was in catch-up mode, but would not panic.
"We did a good job of staying in it mentally," Dopson said. "Coach Sims told us keep playing our game and have quality at bats."
Sterlington settled for a run in its half of the second after loading the bases with one out. McDonald took a pitch off the left shoulder to force in Brooks Rushworth, who led off with a single, before OCS starter Jonathan Snuggs pitched out of the inning with back-to-back punchouts.
Regrouping from the shaky start, Sterlington senior right-hander Spencer Davis held the Eagles scoreless over the next four innings.
Meanwhile, the Panthers drew even with two in the fourth.
Kevin Alfaro walked to start the frame and held at third on McDonald's one-out double into the right field corner.
One out later, Johnson delivered a game-tying, two-run single to left field.
Sterlington opened up a 7-4 lead with a three-spot in the sixth as five straight batters reached with one away.
McDonald was hit by a pitch, took second on a passed ball and moved to third on Barr's base hit. Johnson and Dopson followed with consecutive RBI singles to put the Panthers in front 6-4. Johnson slid in ahead of the throw on Tucker Allen's squeeze bunt.
Refusing to fold, the Eagles countered with three of their own in the seventh.
Wallace led off with a home run, which caromed off the top of the right field fence, closing the gap to 7-5.
Wilhite's base hit and Fulmer's double put the tying run in scoring position with still nobody out. Wilhite came down the line on a wild pitch, and more importantly, Fulmer advanced to third. Up next, Connor McKoin's sacrifice fly tied the game at 7.
It stayed that way until the 11th.
Leading off for the Eagles, Wallace took one for the team, stole second and scored the go-ahead run on a pair of wild pitches.
The Eagles' lead would not hold up, though.
Freshman right-hander Zach Jones, who followed Davis and Will Wohlers to the hill, was credited with decision for the Panthers (23-5, 5-1). Inheriting runners at first and second with nobody out in the eighth, Jones retired nine straight before plunking Wallace to start the 11th. He allowed one run (earned) on one hit while striking out two and walking none.
"Zach Jones doing what he did, that was remarkable," Sims said. "That was a heck of a job by a freshman coming in in that spot. He should have gotten out of the 11th without giving up a run."
Johnson went 3-for-4 with a double and two singles as the Panthers out-hit the Eagles 13-10. Rushworth supplied three singles; McDonald doubled, singled, scored three runs and was hit by a pitch three times; Dopson drove in three runs with a pair of singles and a sac fly; Barr singled twice; Fluitt doubled; and Allen and Trey Rugg singled.
Wallace was the Eagles' catalyst with a homer, single, two RBI and three runs scored. Fulmer doubled and singled, Martien produced two singles and O'Neal, Wilhite, Clint Hargrave and Britton Mulhearn singled.
John Clark Smith, who threw three scoreless innings before running into trouble in the 11th, was dealt the loss on the mound for the Eagles (21-10, 5-1) in relief of Snuggs and Seth Traweek.