Sterlington 5, Loreauville 1 (Game 2)
Sterlington's baseball team can start packing for a road trip to Sulphur.
Jarrett McDonald went 3-for-4, Brooks Rushworth poled a key double and Spencer Davis was Spencer Davis on the mound as the Panthers topped Loreauville 5-1 Saturday afternoon to complete a sweep of the best-of-three Class 2A state quarterfinal series.
Sterlington (31-5), the No. 1 seed will be paired against No. 4 Kinder (19-14) on Friday at 10 a.m. in the semifinals at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Baseball State Tournament at McMurry Park in Sulphur. No. 3 Lakeside (29-10) and No. 7 Rosepine (22-11) will play in the other semifinal Friday at 1 p.m., with the state championship game set for Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Denied in the quarterfinals in 2014 and 2015, the Panthers overcame a slow start to secure their first State Tournament berth since 2010.
Loreauville starter Zy Alexander matched Davis zero for zero until the Panthers broke through for a four-spot in the fifth.
Sterlington put its first two batters aboard in the first and second and its leadoff man on in the third only to come away empty.
McDonald led off the game with a base hit (under LHSAA rules the host team is designated as the visitors for the middle game of the series) and Jacob Barr walked, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize.
After Davis worked a 1-2-3 first, the Panthers's first two batters reached in the second when Carson Clowers singled and Kevin Alfaro walked. Neither runner advanced any further.
Loreauville threatened in the bottom of the second.
Connor Landry banged a leadoff double and took third on Chase Clifton's sacrifice bunt. A walk to Shajuan Nora — Davis' lone free pass of the afternoon — placed runners at the corners. Keeping his composure, Davis induced a popup to McDonald at second base. Moments later, McDonald fielded a ground ball which deflected off of Davis' glove to retire the side.
Barr drew his second walk of the game to start the third, stole second standing up and moved to third on Davis Johnson's groundout before the Panthers' left their fifth runner aboard.
Alexander sat the Panthers down in order in the fourth.
"You could feel the old tension building," Sterlington coach Mark Sims said.
Fortunately for the Panthers, the Tigers weren't able to get anything going, either as Davis worked his third three-up, three-down frame in the fourth.
"Our calming effect was Spencer," Sims said. "He kept putting the zeroes up, then we got the big hit from Brooks."
McDonald sliced a one-out, opposite-field double to left to get the Panthers started in the fifth. Barr's third walk of the day and a wild pitch set Sterlington up with runners at second and third. Another wild pitch enabled McDonald to cross home with the first run on the game.
One out later, Dalton Dopson walked, bringing on a pitching change.
Rushworth then came through with a two-run double to left-center. Clowers' RBI single to left expanded the margin to 4-0.
Sterlington added one more in the sixth when Luke Denman took a pitch off the left shoulder and circled the bases on McDonald's double to right.
Loreauville avoided the shutout with a run in the sixth as Bryson Broussard reached on a two-base, leadoff error and scored on Rhette Viator's RBI single.
Davis struck out five and allowed four hits while going the distance and running his record to 11-0.
McDonald paced the Panthers with a pair of doubles and a single, Clowers produced two singles, Rushworth doubled and Luke Fluitt singled.
Loreauville (18-11) received two singles from Jobe Hebert, a double from Landry and a base hit from Viator.
Alexander absorbed the loss on the mound for the Tigers with Alec Freyou in relief.
Notes: Sterlington seniors Will Wohlers, Jacob Barr, Nathan McClain, Dalton Dopson, Kevin Alfaro and Spencer Davis played in their final game at Panther Park. The seniors finished their careers with a perfect 10-0 postseason record on their home field. ... Sterlington won Game 1 Friday night 8-1 behind the four-hit pitching of Trey Rugg. ... Sterlington pitching has allowed only two runs in five postseason games.