Berwick High School's Ethan Nguyen slides into home plate safely during the Panthers' regional round series with North Vermilion Saturday. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Berwick to host Iota in rematch of 3A title game
A rematch of last season’s Class 3A baseball state championship between Berwick and Iota will take place in Berwick, but instead of a Friday-Saturday matchup, it now will be held on Thursday, and possibly Friday.
The change to move the games to a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. Thursday with an if-necessary game in the best-of-three series Friday was announced Tuesday by Berwick due to the threat of inclement weather this weekend.
The No. 4 Panthers will look to continue their impressive home record as they are riding a 20-plus game home winning streak.
“I don’t know the reason why but we’ve been really good here, and I know our guys take a lot of pride in playing here,” Berwick High School Coach Brandon Bravata said. “It’s a lot easier than having to travel during the day and get off the bus and play a doubleheader, I know that.
“So we worked hard,” Bravata added. “That was a goal of ours, to be the four seed, to get this opportunity, so here we are in the quarters with the home field opportunity, and we’re excited that hopefully our fans will be able to come out and support us.”
No. 4 Iota (24-8-1) comes into the series after winning its regional round series with No. 12 Jennings two games to one. After falling in game one 9-8, Iota rallied with an 8-4 victory in game two and held on for an 11-10 win in game three.
The pitchers of record this past weekend were Gavin Leblanc, who suffered the loss in game one; Hunter Wriborg, who earned the complete-game victory in game two; and Gavin Vidrine, who was game three’s winner. Nicholas Duplechain earned the save in game three.
Offensively, Iota hit four home runs, including a grand slam, in its regional-round series win.
Mitchell Lege had a .636 batting average for the weekend with a double, a grand slam and six RBIs, while Andrew Ashby batted .455 with a double, a home run and eight RBIs. Duplechain batted .250 with a double, two home runs and three RBIs, while Tyler Lejeune batted .500 with a double and two RBIs.
Iota has four starters back from last year’s 3A title game in Ashby, Wriborg, Lege and Trae Rambin.
“They have several of their pitchers back from last year,” Bravata said. “They’re athletic in every positon, but they’ve got some young guys, a couple of freshmen that start that are, from what I understand, very athletic, and some quality players.”
Bravata says he knows Iota will be “hungry” coming into this series.
“They’re going to want some revenge on us, so we’re going to have to be ready to go,” he said.
Iota, the District 5-3A champion, and Berwick have three common opponents this season in Brusly, Kaplan and Erath. The Bulldogs beat all three teams, while Berwick beat Brusly and split with Kaplan and Erath.
Berwick returns four players who were starters in last season’s state championship game in Mitchell Sanford, Brett Williams, Zeph Hoffpauir and Chad LaGrange.
The Panthers have outscored their two playoffs opponents a combined 46-1.
Bravata noted that’s the second straight year the Panthers’ offensive production has improved as the season has gone on.
“We hit .370 last year, which was really kind off the charts, but this year I’m very impressed,” Bravata said. “We’re hitting over .330, and I’m not sure that I really expected us offensively to be as strong as we have been, so hopefully we bring that kind of ‘A’ game back with us and we’ll have the bats with us this weekend. We’ll certainly need them.”
In this past weekend’s series, Berwick defeated No. 13 North Vermilion 17-0 in five innings and 7-0 to win their series.
Seth Canty earned the game one win, while Zeph Hoffpauir earned the win in game two.
Seth Giroir batted .600 with a double for Berwick in the series, while Hunter Landry had a .571 average with four RBIs. LaGrange batted .400 with a double and four RBIs, while Williams recorded a .285 batting average with a triple and six RBIs.