Notes, quotes and thoughts from Sterlington's 9-8, 11-inning victory over Ouachita Christian on Saturday afternoon:
SENIOR DAY: Sterlington's six seniors — right-handed pitcher Will Wohlers, center fielder Jacob Barr, right-handed pitcher Nathan McClain, third baseman Dalton Dopson, utility man Kevin Alfaro and right-handed pitcher/first baseman Spencer Davis — were recognized in a brief Senior Day ceremony following the game.
The postgame mood was more festive than normal as it was the Panthers' first win over the Eagles in five years. Sterlington's current seniors were eighth-graders, Randy Carr was head coach and current coach was Mark Sims was the pitching coach for the 2012 team. Casey Sutton, now a senior at Louisiana Tech, pitched the Panthers to the win over OCS.
BALLOON RELEASE: Donna Davis, the mother of Spencer Davis, was unable to attend the game, but she was in the Panthers' thoughts.
Following the Senior Day presentations, the team formed a circle on the field and said a prayer for Mrs. Davis, who is battling cancer. Shortly afterward, the Panthers released two balloon bouquets in her honor.
YOUNG GUNS: While it was a memorable day for the seniors, the contributions of sophomore right fielder Davis Johnson and freshman right-hander Zach Jones did not go unnoticed.
Johnson's two-out, two-run single in the fourth tied the game at 4-4. Two innings later, he delivered again with a go-ahead, RBI single.
"Davis is going to be one of the leaders of this program by the time he leaves here, so it was good to see him step up like that," Dopson said.
Called upon in the eighth, Jones escaped a first-and-second, nobody-out situation, while limiting the Eagles to one run on one hit through four innings.
Sterlington coach Mark Sims has never been one to shy away from playing freshmen.
"As a freshman, 14 or 15 years old, Zach handled himself well," Dopson said. "I remember coach Sims throwing us into games like that when we were freshmen. Zach responded really well today."
CO-CHAMPS: With OCS winning Thursday's game 9-4, and Sterlington bouncing back to gain a split, the Eagles (21-10, 5-1) and Panthers (23-5) are District 2-2A co-champs.
For both teams, the series was more about power ratings than the district championship.
Sterlington entered the week ranked No. 1 in the LHSAA's Class 2A power poll while the Eagles were No. 2 in Division III.
"We wanted to stay No. 1, and we got it done today," Dopson said.
BROKEN STREAKS: Both teams came into the series on a roll. OCS snapped the Panthers' 12-game winning streak Thursday night. Returning the favor Saturday, Sterlington ended the Eagles' 14-game streak.
RIVALRY? Saturday's game marked the Panthers' first win over the Eagles in Sims' four-year tenure as head coach. Sims, however, downplayed the rivalry aspect both before and after the series.
"I know it's big for everybody around here. Everybody at Sterlington wants to beat OCS and everybody at OCS wants to beat Sterlington," Sims said. "But whether it's OCS on our opponents' shirts, or Downsville, Bastrop, Haughton or whoever, we're here to play baseball. There's a little extra incentive (vs. OCS) because of the proximity of the schools. We got it handed to us 9-4 at their place Tuesday night, but it was just one game out of 30 on our schedule. It's the same for today's game.
"Looking at the big picture, winning today should keep us at No. 1 with three games to go."
Dopson, who drove in the game-winning run, doesn't necessarily agree with his coach that OCS is just another game.
"We were 0-for against them," Dopson said. "To beat them in an 11-inning classic on Senior Day makes it even more meaningful, especially with the atmosphere. It was a playoff-type atmosphere. I was glad to see the people come out and support us the way they did."
Though their views of the rivalry may differ, Sims and Dopson are on the same page when it comes to the grand scheme of things.
"This game definitely doesn't make our season," Dopson said. "We have three games left, then the playoffs."
OUCH: Sterlington leadoff batter Jarrett McDonald was hit by a pitch in three of his seven plate appearances Saturday.
Whether or not his new, shiny, white Franklin batting gloves survived the game was not immediately known.