After losing to top seed Breaux Bridge in agonizing fashion in game two of their best-of-3 Class 4A quarterfinal series Saturday, the Benton Tigers could’ve wilted under the pressure in the decisive game three.
Breaux Bridge was at home. The Southwest Louisiana Tigers had just staved off elimination by winning 5-3 in 11 innings. Several times they were on the brink of elimination. After losing game one Friday 7-0, momentum was on their side.
But the Tigers from Northwest Louisiana had other plans. They didn’t come close to wilting. Not hardly.
After giving up a two-run lead in the bottom of the fifth, Benton went on to win 5-3 in nine innings.
The No. 9 seed Tigers (27-13) will play No. 5 West Ouachita (29-11) in the semifinals at 10:30 a.m. Friday in the state tournament at McMurry Park in Sulphur. West Ouachita defeated No. 4 South Lafourche two games to one in its quarterfinal series.
Benton, which lost in the quarterfinals the last six seasons, is making its first trip to the semifinals since reaching the Class 3A championship game in 2007.
Breaux Bridge, which entered the quarterfinals with a 22-game winning streak, finished 31-5.
As has been the case all season, Benton had plenty of players step up against Breaux Bridge.
The Tigers got a gutsy performance from pitcher Turner Toms in game three. Toms went the distance, throwing 126 pitches. He scattered nine hits, struck out seven and walked three.
In the bottom of the ninth, Breaux Bridge stayed alive and had runners on the corners with two outs thanks to an error. Toms got behind in the count 3-1 and was on the verge of walking the bases loaded.
Instead, he struck out the batter with his next two pitches, setting off a big Benton celebration.
Benton led 3-1 after 4.5 innings, but Breaux Bridge scored two to tie it in the bottom of the inning. And that’s how it stayed through eight.
J.T. Brice was hit by a pitch to lead off Benton’s ninth. Clint Lasiter and Cade Scott had back-to-back singles to load the bases. Cody Norris followed with a single to score Brice.
With one out, Peyton Long hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Lasiter for the 5-3 lead.
Benton took a 1-0 lead in the first thanks to a hit-by-pitch, walk and error. The Tigers added another run in the third on Garrett Hable’s groundout to third with the bases loaded.
Breaux Bridge cut the lead to one in the bottom of the inning on a two-out RBI triple.
Benton took the 3-1 lead in the fifth on Hable’s two-out RBI-single.
Scott and Lasiter finished with two hits each.
Benton came oh-so-close to not having to play a game three.
The Tigers led game two 2-1 after six and were one out from the victory. But Cole Mouton’s single tied it.
Benton loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth with no one out but couldn’t push a run across. The Tigers left a runner stranded at third in the ninth.
After Breaux Bridge took a 3-2 lead in the top of the 10th, Benton’s Daniel Halbert kept the game going with a home run over the left-field fence.
But Breaux Bridge scored twice in the top of the 11th on a two-out single.
Benton finished with 14 hits to Breaux Bridges’ 10.
Scott went 3-for-5 with a double. He finished the day 5-for-10. Hable went 2-for-4 with a double. Brice had an RBI single in the second to tie the game at 1.
Hable scored on a wild pitch in the sixth after he doubled and advanced to third on a passed ball.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org