On To Sulphur
Central Catholic High School head coach Tyler Jensen, left, talks to T.J. Ruffin, center, and Stefano Guarisco during a break in the Eagles’ Class 1A quarterfinal contest against St. Mary’s School Saturday. Central Catholic topped St. Mary’s to advance to the Class 1A semifinals at McMurray Park in Sulphur. The Eagles will face the winner of No. 2 St. Frederick and No. 7 Cedar Creek at 5 p.m. Friday. Cedar Creek and St. Frederick are playing today. (The Daily Review/Michelle Blanc)
Samuel Guarisco’s arm and T.J. Ruffin’s bat powered Central Catholic to the state semifinals for the third year in a row.
CCHS (27-4), the third seed, upended St. Mary’s (23-9), the 11th seed, 13-5 Saturday to advance.
The Eagles grabbed an early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Matthew Barbier was hit by a pitch to reach safely. The hit-by-pitch became a theme with St. Mary’s pitchers hitting 10 Central Catholic batters in the game.
“You have to give our guys credit for not getting out of the way of fastballs,” Central Catholic coach Tyler Jensen said. “It’s not easy to take those pitches off the hip, off the arm, but that’s something we pride ourselves in, being tough and taking whatever they give us.”
Central Catholic loaded the bases and Bryson Barbier connected for a two-RBI single, scoring Barron Courtney and Charlie Barron.
Meanwhile, Guarisco kept St. Mary’s offense at bay, retiring seven consecutive batters into the fourth inning. In 4.2 innings, he surrendered five earned runs on eight hits with four walks and fanned three.
“Samuel was on top of his game early, and defensively, we were sharp,” Jensen said. “We were just ready to go.”
Central Catholic’s bats remained hot, taking a 4-0 lead in the third inning on Ruffin’s RBI single. Ruffin finished the contest 3-for-4 with a double and six RBIs.
“T.J. has been hot, and he’s kind of our secret weapon,” Jensen said. “We hide him down there in the nine hole, and he’s the one guy we tell to just see how hard you can hit it every time. He’s hitting with some confidence right now, and he’s clutch.”
Ruffin’s hit chased Tigers’ starter Donovan Ohnuotka. He was replaced by Cole Zeagler. Samuel Guarisco greeted Zeagler with a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 5-0.
The Eagles added another run after two more hit batters, and a Nick Case single loaded the bases again. Stefano Guarisco’s fielder’s choice scored Courtney for a 6-0 lead.
Central Catholic loaded the bases again, and Ruffin doubled in three more RBIs for a 9-0 margin. After another St. Mary’s pitching change, Samuel Guarisco hit a sacrifice fly deep to the centerfield wall to score Greg Leger. Leading 10-0, it looked like a quick night for the highly-regarded Eagles, but St. Mary’s bats finally caught fire.
The Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth inning, scoring five runs to cut the Eagles’ lead in half.
With the score at 10-4, Central Catholic went to Charlie Barron in relief, but Michael Leone, who led off the inning with a double, singled in a run. Barron regrouped to strike out Grant Ingram with a big curveball to get out of the inning with the bases loaded.
“They had their big inning, and it may sound crazy but we did a good job holding it (to) five because another hit really would have made it interesting,” Jensen said. “But what I think was key is us answering in the next inning, saying ‘OK, you scored five now stop us.’ We had that winner’s mentality.”
Central Catholic certainly didn’t blink, promptly loading the bases and setting the stage for another big hit by Ruffin. He responded again with a three-run single to put the Eagles in control again 13-5.
CCHS went to ace Bryson Barbier in the sixth inning, and he pitched the Eagles’ to a third straight trip to the Class 1A semifinals, which will be held Friday in Sulphur. In two innings, Barbier surrendered two hits and a walk.
“Three trips in a row doesn’t happen often, and (I) think we have become a little spoiled to it,” Jensen said.
Central Catholic will face the winner of No. 2 St. Frederick and No. 7 Cedar Creek Friday at 5 p.m. at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Cedar Creek and St. Frederick will play today in Monroe.
Other top contributors for Central Catholic Saturday included Stefano Guarisco, 2-for-4, two RBIs, two stolen bases and three runs; Case, 2-for-3, a run; Bryson Barbier, 1-for-2, two RBIs, a stolen base and two runs; Samuel Guarisco, 1-for-3, a double, two RBIs and a run; and Barron, an RBI, two stolen bases and two runs.