Berwick High School's Hunter Landry attempts a bunt during the Panthers' Class 3A semifinals contest with Sterlington Sunday at McMurry Park in Sulphur. No. 4 Berwick fell to top-seeded Sterlington 1-0 in eight innings. Berwick finishes its season with a 30-9 mark, while Sterlington, which improves to 34-4, advances to Tuesday's Class 3A state championship game where it will meet No. 3 South Beauregard. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Sterlington gets RBI single in the 8th to end Berwick's season
Top-ranked Sterlington High School had just three hits in Sunday’s Class 3A semifinal contest against No. 4 Berwick.
But the final one proved to be the most important.
Sterlington’s Braden Hough connected on an RBI-single to centerfield in the bottom of the eighth for a 1-0 walk-off victory qualify Sterlington for a trip to the Class 3A finals.
The hit ended a back-and-forth battle between the two teams, especially the pitchers.
Sterlington’s Trey Rugg went all eight innings and surrendered just four hits, while Berwick’s duo of starter Zeph Hoffpauir and reliever Mitchell Sanford combined for 12 strikeouts and just three hits allowed.
Sanford suffered the loss in relief.
Both teams put runners on base throughout the game, particularly Berwick in the later innings, but neither could come up with the timely hit until Hough’s single in the bottom of the eight.
Berwick left runners on base in every inning from the fourth through the eight, including a runner reaching second base in the fifth and eighth innings and runners at second and third in the sixth.
“I told them we just didn’t get the timely hit when we needed to,” Berwick Coach Brandon Bravata said. “Everything else was good, and really, we had the momentum for a lot of the game today. You have to tip your to Zeph Hoffpauir and the way he left it out on the field.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Sterlington had its biggest threat since loading the bases in the top of the first inning.
With at second base and two outs, Hoffpauir had reached his pitch count, so Sanford came on in relief.
While the base runner advanced to third on a pitch that reached the backstop, Sanford struck out the lone batter he faced to end the threat.
In the top of the eighth, Berwick’s Hunter Landry reached base on a one-out walk and stole second base, but the inning ended with a Rugg strikeout.
With the top of the Sterlington lineup up to bat in the bottom of the eighth, Reese Brooks hit a slow roller in play that he reached base on before Berwick could make a play for an infield single.
Brooks advance to second one batter later, but Berwick got the first out when the batter, Seaver Sheets, fouled out on a bunt attempt.
Hough then came up to bat ended the game with his single.
Hoffpauir, who started the game, retired Sterlington in order in four innings. He left the game after pitching 6.2 innings and surrendering one hit, hit two batters, walked three and fanned 11.
Offensively, Hoffpauir, Brett Williams and Ethan Nguyen each finished 1-for-3 for Berwick, while Sanford was 1-for-4.
Hough led Sterlington with a 1-for-4 performance with an RBI.
Sanford pitched 0.2 innings and surrendered one earned run on two hits with one strikeout.
The Panthers finished its season with 30 wins, one more than a year ago when it won the Class 3A state title.
“I judge a season based off of did we max out everything we could with the team, and I really do believe that (we did),” Bravata said. “To get walked off in the eighth in the semifinal, that’s about as much as you can do.”
Berwick will say goodbye to 12 seniors on this year’s squad: Sanford, Hoffpauir, Landry, Shayne Berger, Zeph Delatte, Williams, Nguyen, Barrett Hover, Chad LaGrange, Rustin Ratcliff, Hunter Seneca and Seth Giroir.
“They’ve been a part of a pretty damn good run here in three years,” Bravata said. “Three state tournaments and a state championship, so you can’t beat that.”