West St. John rallies past Lions, 9-8
Published 11:45 pm Friday, March 30, 2012
By RYAN ARENA
EDGARD — In the span of an inning, frustration turned to elation for West St. John.
Steven Brignac’s walkoff RBI single in the bottom of the seven inning kept West St. John within striking distance of first place in District 9-1A and capped a rally from five runs down as the Rams emerged with a 9-8 victory over Ascension Christian.
“I kept telling my guys, don’t try to get it all back in one swing,” said West St. John coach Ronald August. “We can play station to station. As we went, we started seeing more pitches due to our patience. And then we started seeing better pitches to hit.
“I’m proud of my guys for playing through the mistakes we made. We made a lot of mental errors, but we pushed through it.”
The Rams (10-2, 4-1) are one game behind district-leading St. John-Plaquemine.
The Lions (6-10, 2-3) held leads of 4-0 and then 7-2 in the game.
West St. John scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, breaking through offensively after a string of three innings that saw the Rams get at least two runners on with one or no outs — each time, the Rams scratched out just one run.
But in the seventh, West St. John would not be denied. The rally began with the Rams trailing 8-5, after Ascension Christian scored a run on Austin McInnis’ RBI single in the top half of the frame.
Damond Pierce drew a walk to begin the inning, and that would become a trend; four straight Rams drew walks off of Lions’ relievers, as Rashan Smith, Austin Howard and Lavonta Augusta took their base, the latter forcing home a run to make it 8-6.
Jarius Moll socked a deep fly ball to left field that went for a sacrifice fly, driving another run home to draw WSJ within one.
This was where ESJ sputtered in previous innings, but not so here. Dontre Turner got a hold of a pitch from McInnis and drilled it to deep right field; it went for a double and brought home the tying run.
With first base open, Ascension Christian intentionally walked Lawrence Williams to load the bases.
That brought up Brignac, who punched a single through to secure the win for WSJ.
“Baseball’s a funny game sometimes,” said Brignac. “There are so many ups and downs, and the team that sticks through it all is usually the one who comes away with the win … They walked Lawrence to get to me, and once that happened I knew I had to put the team on my back right there and end it.”
Williams added, “I was kind of heartbroken when they walked me, because I thought the game would be on my shoulders in that spot. But I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that Steven would get the hit. I have faith in my teammates.”
Austin Howard collected the win for WSJ, pitching the complete game and striking out nine.
The Lions used five different pitchers in the game.
“I think they were trying to keep us off balance,” said Turner. “We knew Austin was pitching well, but we made some errors. We knew if we made the plays we needed to, we always had a chance to come back.”
Ascension Christian led 2-0 after the first inning. It extended the lead to 3-0 on Brennan Perkins’ RBI single in the second inning and then to 4-0 when Evan Pellegrin scored on a passed ball in the third.
The Rams answered in the bottom of the third on Turner’s two-run single, making it 4-2. But Ascension Catholic fired back with three runs in the top of the fourth, with runs scoring on RBI singles by Perkins and Payton Stafford and another on a fielding error, making it 7-2.
From there, WSJ squeezed across a run in each of the next three frames, but could never create the big inning. The Rams loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, and came away with one run when Howard was hit by a pitch to force in a run. The Rams loaded the bases again with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, but again scored just a single run when Pierce collected an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Finally, in the sixth, WSJ got two on with no outs and then loaded the bases with one out, but scratched across one run on a dropped fly ball.
But in the seventh, WSJ found their offense, just in time to continue what has become a habit of winning in 2012.
“We don’t want our heads to get too big,” said Brignac. “We just need to stick with what we’re doing and play ball. Our coaches are working real hard, we’re listening to them, and we’re off to a great start.”
That win was the second home district win of the week for WSJ, which defeated White Castle, 17-5, on Tuesday at WSJ.
Turner pitched the complete game to earn the win, striking out eight.
The Rams scored 10 runs in the fifth inning to close the game out by the 10-run rule.