Berwick High School's Chad LaGrange
(The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Berwick, Sterlington to meet in Class 3A semifinals
So far, Berwick High School’s baseball team has survived every opponent of the Revenge Tour the squad has faced as it fights to clinch a second-straight Class 3A state championship.
In the next round, the Class 3A state semifinals at McMurry Park in Sulphur, the No. 4 seed Panthers, again, will face a team that they have a brief history with in top-seed Sterlington.
A year ago, then No. 4 seed Berwick upset No. 1 seed Sterlington before knocking off Iota for the state championship.
Now, Berwick and Sterlington will meet Thursday at 10:30 a.m. on Field 40 at McMurry Park with a state final appearance at stake.
“They’re ready to come avenge their loss last year just like everybody that we’ve played here in the playoffs has wanted to do,” Berwick Coach Brandon Bravata said Tuesday. “You start with Peabody. We played them the first round last year. You look at North Vermilion. We beat them twice this year, beat them twice last year, and then you go to Iota. We beat them in the state championship, and now Sterlington, who we beat in the semifinal (last year). They all, you read their articles in the newspaper in their area, and they all want to do the same thing. They feel like they owe us one.
“I don’t know how much of a factor that will be, but I know our guys understand that, and again, we just try to focus on the things that we can control,” Bravata added.
The Panthers will face a Sterlington squad who has not lost a postseason game this season. Sterlington defeated Church Point in the first round before sweeping series against West Feliciana in round two and North Webster in the quarterfinals.
Bravata said the Panthers expect to face pitcher Trey Rugg, a returning Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 3A first-team All-State selection a year ago. Rugg, who Bravata said is a quality pitcher, started against the Panthers a year ago.
While complete season stats were not readily available, this postseason, Rugg is 3-0 with a 0.70 ERA and 21 strikeouts.
Sterlington also features pitcher Adam Tubbs, an honorable mention Louisiana Sports Writers Association Class 3A All-State selection a season ago, who is 2-0 with a 0.70 ERA this postseason.
Offensively, Brock Risinger leads Sterlington this postseason with a .500 batting average with a double and five RBIs.
Other top Sterlington offensive contributors this postseason are Braden Hough with a .438 batting average with a double and eight RBIs; Davis Johnson, a .412 batting average with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs; and Reece Brooks, a .400 batting average.
“We’ll have to play well, and we’ll have to throw strikes, and we’ll have to be solid defensively, and then just give us a chance for our bats to get going,” Bravata said. “Over the last couple of games, seems like it’s taken us a little bit of time to get going, and all of a sudden we’ve exploded. One thing we cannot do is give up a big inning early, and then try to fight back from that. Rather, keep the game relatively close or jump out ahead and then let our bats catch up a little bit.”
Berwick is led on the mound by junior pitcher Seth Canty, who is 10-1 with a 2.39 ERA with 64 strikeouts.
The Panthers feature returning all-state players Mitchell Sanford and Zeph Hoffpauir.
Sanford, an LSU signee, is batting .434 this season with 12 doubles, seven triples, six home runs and 30 RBIs.
Hoffpauir, a Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun signee, is hitting .354 with 10 doubles, one triple, six home runs and 44 RBIs. On the mound, he has a 5-3 record with a 2.63 ERA and 79 strikeouts.
Other top offensive contributors are Chad LaGrange, who is batting .414 with eight doubles, two triples and 36 RBIs; and Barrett Hover, who has a .381 batting average with nine double, two triples, three home runs and 45 RBIs.
The Panthers’ lineup this season features multiple seniors who have waited their turn to contribute.
“The thing that’s made me proud is obviously you’re proud of the big talented kids like the Mitchell Sanfords and the Zeph Hoffpauirs, but the kids you really are proud of even more so are the one’s that have waited their turn to get to where they’ve had their opportunity after three years,” Bravata said. “You look at a Rustin Ratcliff, that’s waited three years to get his opportunity or a Zeph Delatte, who’s waited the three years or a Hunter Landry, that’s waited, or Seth Giroir or even the Barrett Hovers, these kind of kids who have sat there and waited and have gone through the ups and downs of having to wait and sit on the bench and then … just getting every ounce of ability out of them, watching them reach their potential, is probably the most rewarding thing as a coach.”
This year is Berwick’s third straight trip to Sulphur.
LaGrange, who has been a part of two of those trips, said it means a lot to return to Sulphur, especially considering he plays more this year.
“I’m going to go out there and do my best, and hopefully we’ll win it,” he said.
Landry said it is fun to finish his career in Sulphur with his senior teammates.
“We grew up together, so we’ve been playing with each other forever, so it’s just fun to keep going with them,” he said.