The Destrehan Wildcats answered the challenge.
Destrehan went into its game against Hahnville on Monday with a two-game lead in the District 7-5A standings over the Tigers and need just one more win to claim the league title.
Instead, the Wildcats lost 10-0 at home, setting up a final showdown at Hahnville on Wednesday.
“Sometimes you take one on your chin and you want to see how your guys respond. We had a lot of games like this throughout the year where we talked about after the game that that was a playoff-type game that will pay off down the line. Monday, we weren’t expecting to get beat the way we did and it was a challenge. We had to accept the challenge. We looked at what we could have done better and worked on it the last two days and we just challenged our guys to come back and push back and respond, and I think they did that,” Destrehan coach Chris Mire said.
The Wildcats (21-8 overall, 11-1 in district) used a four-run sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie and went on to claim the district title with a 5-2 triumph.
“When the sun goes down, the scoreboard goes back to zero,” said Mire. “We spent the last 48 hours thinking about that game and we heard about how tough a schedule Hahnville plays and how bad they whupped us and our guys said, ‘you know what, we play the same schedule and we’re a 20-win ball club and there is no reason to start second-guessing what we do. Let’s just refocus and come out and play our game and make them have to play great again to beat us,’ and it was a little bit different today.”
Making a difference was Destrehan pitcher Josh MacCord. After nursing his arm due to elbow tendonitis, MacCord got the start against Hahnville and worked into the sixth inning.
“Josh gets all the credit. He came in and he threw the ball and we were not aggressive. He made us not aggressive with his pitches,” Hahnville coach David Baudry said.
“I was throwing by pitches for strikes and getting ahead in the count. That’s what it’s all about,” said MacCord. “I’ve been coming out of the bullpen a lot because of my injury previously. It’s Hahnville, so I had to give it all I’ve got.”
At the plate, left fielder Dustin Weber delivered a two-run double as the big blow in the sixth inning.
“It’s amazing, especially after getting that redemption after Monday’s game. It was special for me. I’m a senior and it’s my last year and I’m happy to win the district championship,” said Weber.
Meanwhile, the Tigers (13-17 overall, 9-3 in district) may not have quite answered their own challenge Wednesday, coming up a bit short in their desire to capture the district title, but to be in position to do so on the last day of the regular season after a 1-12 start, was a remarkable accomplishment all its own.
“It’s all about those guys. They worked their butts off. We won 13 out of 17 going into today because of the hard work they put in. We righted the ship, so to speak. We found the right people. Hopefully, we can get ready for Monday and be ready to go in the playoffs because they deserve that,” said Baudry.
The score was tied 1-1 going into the sixth inning as both MacCord and Hahnville starter Jackson Stumbo stymied opposing batters. The Tigers started to have control problems in the inning and burned through four pitchers in the inning.
An error to open the inning, followed by a bunt single by T.J. Thomas and a fielder’s choice left runners on the corners with one out. After Stumbo walked the next batter to load the bases, he was replaced by Collin Maise, who moved to the mound from left field.
Maise hit Destrehan batter Dylan Weber with his first pitch to force in a run and break the 1-1 deadlock. After Maise allowed another base on balls to force in another run, he was replaced by Vladimir Furl. Dustin Weber belted Furl’s first pitch off the wall in left center field, driving in two runs for a 5-1 Wildcats lead.
“Coach Mire gave me the green light,” Dustin Weber said. “He said if it’s there, go for it. I did. I was looking to just get a sac fly but it happened to drop and we got two and that took some pressure off our pitcher. I was looking dead-red fastball.”
“That’s the 17th time (Dylan Weber) has gotten hit by a pitch this year. They are actually twin brothers and they kind of had a competition going all year of who could get hit the most. Naturally, he gets hit by a pitch on the first pitch. They made the second change and we thought about taking but I said, ‘you know what, Dustin, you’ve been big for us in this spot all year. If you get your pitch, put the barrel on it.’ That exactly what he did,” said Mire.
The Tigers had one last run in them in the bottom of the sixth inning. A double by David Bernard and a one-out single by Maise put runners on the corners. Hayden Theriot followed with a sacrifice fly to score Bernard with the game’s final run.
Hits were hard to come by before Destrehan broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning.
Ahman Morris led off with a single, stole second on a strikeout and reached third on a ground out to the pitcher before scoring on a single by Nathan Rhodes. After a hit batsman loaded the bases, Stumbo struck out Ty Yoes to end the inning.
Hahnville countered with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
A walk and an error put runners on second and first with one out. After MacCord struck out Maxwell Farrell on a called third strike, Collin Zeringue came up with a run-scoring hit to right center. Zeringue tried to stretch it into a double but was out on the play to end the inning.
“He (MacCord) had one little hiccup in that inning. We walked a guy after a strikeout and we make an error behind it and they end up scoring a run, but we limited it to one run. On Monday, they got a six-spot on us. If you can keep teams to one-run innings, you have a shot,” said Mire.
It took a span of three days, but the Wildcats are now district champions.
“We deserve to win. We hear other programs use that phase and we’ve kind of adopted it. ‘Deserve to Win,’ and fortunately, I think our group deserves to win,” said Mire.