Even before Sterlington won the state baseball championship Saturday afternoon, it had been an unprecedented year for the athletic program.
Sterlington also won its first-ever football state championship and bowed to Mangham 3-2 in the state softball finals.
Sterlington coach Mark Sims was part of West Monroe's baseball-softball-football trifecta in 1999.
"For a public school win state in football and baseball, and be one pitch away in softball, what a great year for Sterlington athletics," Sims said. "It's a great time to be a coach at Sterlington High School. It's a great time to be a Panther."
SENIORS Will Wohlers, Jacob Barr, Nathan McClain, Dalton Dopson, Kevin Alfaro and Spencer Davis actually finished their careers as post-graduates. SHS held its graduation ceremony Monday night.
Barr and Rushworth were starters for the football team at wide receiver and defensive end, respectively, but both missed the state championship game with injuries.
STRONG FINISH: Late in the regular season, sophomore Luke Denman was relegated to courtesy running duties as the result of an extended batting slump.
After a stretch of about 10 games on the bench, Denman was inserted into the lineup in left field for Game 1 of the Panthers' second-round playoff series against North Caddo. Denman promptly went 2-for-3 with an RBI and remained in left field for the duration of the state championship run.
"I just tried to start hitting the ball because that's what got me taken out of the lineup," Denman said.
To get back on the field, Denman said he had to change his practice approach.
"I started working harder in the cage, showing out in practice, and hitting the ball to right field," Denman said. "Coach Sims saw it and put me back in. I told him, he wouldn't regret it if he put me back in."
True to his word, Denman didn't slack up once the Panthers reached the big stage in Sulphur. He clubbed a two-run double against Kinder in the semifinals and went 2-for-2 with two doubles and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the championship game against Lakeside.
"I'm glad coach Sims started believing in me and put me back in the lineup," Denman said.
SCHOOL RECORD: Sterlington (33-5) set a single-season school record for wins and closed out the season on an 11-game winning streak.
J-MC: Sterlington second baseman and leadoff batter Jarrett McDonald reached base safely in all 38 games this season. In the State Tournament, he had a two-run triple vs. Kinder and led off the Panthers' three-run first with a base hit vs. Lakeside.
FAREWELL 2A: Sterlington will not be back to defend its state title as it moves into Class 3A next year.