Rebels hold off Falcons
Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 9, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE — Nursing a two-run lead and attempting to hold off surging St. Thomas Aquinas, Riverside badly needed someone to step up and make a play.
Enter Jeremiah Berteau.
The Rebels’ left fielder made the play of the day in the seventh inning, his full-extension diving catch robbing the Falcons’ Chris Gaudin of a likely RBI base hit and helping to sew up a 5-4 Riverside victory in a Class 2A regional round game at STA Wednesday.
“I was surprised I had it,” said Berteau. “I didn’t think I was close enough. I just knew I had to go all out to try and make a play.”
Said Riverside coach Matt White, “What a play that was. With (Gaudin) up, they were putting pressure on us in a two-run game … It was just what our team needed. Someone to step up and say, ‘I’m gonna make this next play.’”
Riverside, 2A’s No. 3 seed, is set to host No. 22 Runnels in the quarterfinal round Monday.
Mason Vicknair earned the victory on the mound for RA. Vicknair allowed six hits and walked two while striking out four over seven complete innings. At the plate, Tyler Gauthier led the way, going 3 for 4.
Riverside marched out to a 5-0 lead over the first five innings, but St. Thomas Aquinas turned the tide in the bottom of the sixth inning when Tyler Bratcher’s three-run home run sailed out of the park.
After Falcons’ starter Luke Bleakley retired the RA side in order in the seventh, fans were treated to a tense final half-inning of play, the winner to keep its season alive.
Chandler Watts doubled off Vicknair to lead off the seventh. That brought up Gaudin, who looked to have socked a ball into the gap in left-center. Berteau had none of it, his leaping stab recording the first out and keeping STA from making it a one-run game.
“We knew that this could be their last game, so they were gonna come with something (in the seventh),” said Berteau. “We knew, on our end, we just needed three outs. It’s all about getting 21 outs.”
Said Vicknair, “If he doesn’t make that play, who knows. They could tie or even go ahead and win. That was just a huge play.”
Josh Magliolo grounded out to third, Cameron Bivona throwing him out on a close play. But Luke Bleakley dropped a ball between three defenders in center and scored courtesy runner Nathan Hodge from third to make it 5-4.
Brett Bass became the Falcons’ last hope, but Vicknair won the battle, getting Bass looking for his fourth strikeout and the game’s final out.
The freshman right-hander Vicknair said that he needed to dig deep in the final two innings.
“It was probably the hottest day that I’ve pitched,” he said. “But I just had to work through it, throw strikes … I knew my defense was going to back me up.”
Riverside jumped out ahead 2-0 in the first inning, scoring runs on a Nick Delaneuville RBI single and an error. Gauthier led the game off with a double.
Back to back doubles by Chase Wallace and Brandon Hymel plated the Rebels’ third run of the game, this one in the second inning.
Riverside had a chance to break things wide open in the third when Vicknair and T.J. St. Pierre led off with singles. Bivona walked to load the bases with one out, but Bleakley, who started on the mound for STA, struck out the next two batters.
“We hurt ourselves a little bit in that spot. We had a chance to score some runs,” said Gauthier. “But as the game went on, we kept getting base hits.”
RA did tack on two more runs in the fifth after Vicknair and St. Pierre singled and doubled respectively to again lead off the inning. Bivona and Hymel each drove runs in.
Riverside improved to 16-1 in its last 17 games, turning around its season after a 3-9 start.
“You know, it’s starting to really feel like Déjà vu,” said White. “A few years ago, we’re 8-7 coming out of that Lutcher tournament, we’d just gotten 10 run ruled and I kept saying, ‘We’re fine, we’re fine.’ And we end up winning more than 20 games and in the championship game.”
“This team, our players, they’ve grown leaps and bounds.”