Rebels play for title today

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 13, 2017

SULPHUR — The Riverside Academy baseball team left Sulphur with a lot of memories last year, not all of them good.

Today the Rebels get a chance to make some new memories and will bring home a trophy.

No. 4 seed Riverside Academy (28-11) will play for the Division III state championship against No. 2 seed Ouachita Christian at 5 p.m. today at McMurry Park in Sulphur.

It is Riverside’s fifth trip to the finals, its first since 2012.

The Rebels won titles in 1995 and 2005 and were runners-up in 2001 and 2012.

Last year they lost in the Class 2A semifinals to rival St. Charles Catholic, leaving the team heart-broken and hungry for this return trip.

“Last year left kind of a bad taste in our mouths,” said pitcher Jordan Loving. “We were really excited to get back here.”

Not ready to just settle for the trip this time, the Rebels advanced to the final with a solid 7-2 win over No. 1 seed Opelousas Catholic in Thursday’s semifinal.

Loving said he was exhausted after he threw a complete game 4-hitter, striking out six.

Riverside Academy pitcher Jordan Loving pitched Thursday’s game against Opelousas Catholic. He threw a complete game 4-hitter, striking out six batters. (Photo by Delores Montz)

“It was mentally and physically exhausting,” he said, adding the 10 a.m. start didn’t bother him. “I was glad to get up and get playing, rather than sitting around and thinking about it all day.”

Loving said after his team scored five runs in the fourth inning, things got easier.

“That allowed us to relax and just have fun,” he said.

Jared Hymel came through with a pair of hits. Mason Vicknair, Heath Mohon, Tanner Louque and Dane Edler all drove in runs.

Rebels coach Frank Cazeaux said he didn’t relax until the game was over.

“You never know what you’re going to get with this team,” he said. “They were great. We played really well and Loving was outstanding.”

Cazeaux also credited his team’s ability to bunt with helping Thursday’s win.

“We got some bunts down and that enabled us to put some pressure on them and get them to make a few mistakes,” he said.

“We knew we would need to do that and we practiced it this week.”

Now the Rebels turn their attention to Ouachita Christian, the No. 2 seed in the bracket.

The Eagles advanced with a decisive 7-1 win over St. Charles Catholic in the other semifinal, ruining local fans’ hopes for an all-St. John Parish showdown for the title.

“Riverside absolutely can win it,” said St. Charles coach Wayne Stein.

“Opelousas Catholic and Ouachita Christian are very similar. I think Riverside is very deep. They have the pitchers to win it.”

Mason Vicknair, last year’s All State Class 2A Most Outstanding Player, is expected to get today’s start. The senior right-hander (and the team’s leading hitter) is 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 35 strikeouts. He’s hitting .410 with 40 RBIs and 10 home runs.

The Rebels have some memories of the Eagles as well.

Last year Riverside swept Ouachita Christian in a best-of-3 series.

It was Loving who left the lasting memory for the Eagles with his walkoff, 2-run home run.

“We know they’re probably going to be coming for us because we beat them last year,” Loving said. “We can’t worry about who our opponent is. We just have to play our game.”

Cazeaux said he thought his team matched up well against the Eagles (29-11).

“We match up great now that they pitched their ace (Ty O’Neal) against St. Charles,” Cazeaux said.

“He threw against us last year and nearly threw a no-hitter.”

Cazeaux then admitted to being a very superstitious baseball coach, with a good feeling even about his team’s hotel accommodations.

He also reiterated Loving’s thought about today’s big game.

“We just have to play the way we know we can play and hope Lady Luck is on our side,” Cazeaux said.