Comets return to state tournament: Monica’s 3-run homer closes out quarterfinals
Published 3:58 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023
LAPLACE — It all came down to the bottom of the seventh as reigning state champion St. Charles Catholic came back from behind against No. 8 University High in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
A walk-off three-run homer from junior left fielder Jackson Monica sealed the deal with an 8-5 win, sending the top-seeded Comets back to Sulphur to defend their state title. St. Charles Catholic (30-7-1) will face No. 4 Dunham in a semifinal game at 11 a.m. Wednesday at McMurry Park.
Coach Wayne Stein was proud of his Comets for sticking together and competing until the very end.
“I’m glad that we’ve now felt what it’s like to be on the brink of elimination. If you’ve never felt that before, it’s a feeling hat’s hard to handle. Our kids handled it well, and I hope that helps carry us through this week,” Stein said.
St. Charles won the first game in the quarterfinal series 7-4, and University High won the second 3-2, bringing both teams face-to-face for a deciding third game Sunday afternoon in LaPlace. After being tied 2-2 for most of the game, the U-High Cubs were up 5-2 in the seventh inning after the Comets gave up a three-run home run in the sixth.
The bottom of SCC’s lineup was up to bat. It started with Brady St. Pierre getting on base after being hit by a pitch. Back at the top of the lineup, Authement drew a walk and Hudson Heltz got a hit to bring the score to 5-3. Brayden Bertucci delivered a single to tie the game. With the winning runner on second, Monica slammed the ball over left field to end the game.
St. Charles Catholic’s Michael Hotard was the winning pitcher. According to Stein, all of the core pitching staff returned from last year’s championship team, and the Comets have leaned on that experience throughout the season.
“They compete at a very high level and pitch extremely well,” Stein said. “It’s only the second time in school history we’ve won 30 games during the season. It’s a hard thing to do in high school.”
Several of the teams the Comets faced this year advanced to the state tournament, a testament to the strength of schedule.
“It shows you our kids are battle-tested. There’s nothing that’s going to jump in the batter’s box or on the mound that they haven’t seen before,” Stein said.
With a 20-12 record and a No. 4 ranking in Select Division III, Dunham is a well-coached team and a familiar opponent. However, Stein believes records and stats mean very little at this point in the season.
“Dunham has a baseball tradition. They are well-coached and they do all the little things right, but when you get to this point, I always tell the kids whoever plays the best from Wednesday through Friday is the state champion, and whoever doesn’t goes home,” Stein said.
Tickets to the state tournament are available for $19.90 per person exclusively on the GoFan website and app. To purchase tickets, visit https://gofan.co/app/school/LHSAA. According to LHSAA, tickets will not be sold at McMurry Park, and no paper tickets will be accepted. Fans must display a mobile device to redeem tickets.
Fans can also stream the game live, for a fee, at https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/lhsaa.