Glenn Maynor won his 500th career game this season in his 23rd year as head baseball coach at Haughton High School.
Many of those can be classified as “big” wins, but there was none bigger than the Buccaneers’ stunning 2-0 victory over three-time defending state champion Barbe on Tuesday in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Haughton came in as the No. 31 seed. Barbe, also the Buccaneers, was the No. 2 seed and ranked No. 17 in the nation by the website MaxPreps.
“I have to say it’s the biggest postseason win we’ve had, to beat a team that’s nationally-ranked a lot of years, looking at all the state championships (nine) they have on their scoreboard,” Maynor said. “They were the three-time defending state champions. I’d have to say it has to be at the top.”
Haughton (17-18) will visit No. 18 Denham Springs in a best-of-three second-round series. Denham Springs (17-11) defeated No. 15 H.L. Bourgeois 7-0 in the first round. Barbe finished its season 29-6.
Haughton got a fantastic performance from junior Nick Heckman on the mound. He pitched a three-hitter with just three walks. The right-hander wasn’t overpowering, striking out two, but he got 11 groundouts and six flyouts. Heckman threw an efficient 88 pitches of which 56 were strikes.
Two of his walks came back to back with one out in the sixth. He induced a popout for the second out. Maynor said left fielder Lake Lowery, whom he substituted for defensive purposes, made a great catch that prevented a run and a runner from reaching third for the third out.
“He pitched a great game,” he said. “We had some scouting reports on some guys and kind of a plan to attack certain hitters. He executed it to perfection. He worked both sides of the plate. He was pretty successful getting the leadoff hitter. He kept them out of doing what they wanted to do, bunt, steal, stuff like that.”
Haughton also got outstanding defensive play, making only one error. Barbe made four, including two in the second that resulted in the two runs.
Barbe got a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh. But Haughton turned a double play on a ball hit back to Heckman who threw to shortstop CJ McWilliams covering second. McWilliams then fired the ball to first baseman Jathon Patton.
“That was big,” Maynor said. “The ball was hit right back to Nick, a 1-6-3 double play and then we’re down to the last out.”
Heckman struck out McNeese State signee Adam Goree on three pitches for final out.
It was a windy night and judging the ball’s flight was tough. Maynor said Lowery wasn’t the only one who came through in the outfield. “Center fielder Jonathan Plant made a couple of great plays,” he said.
In the third inning, Haughton catcher Mason Simmons threw out a runner trying to steal third for the final out. Barbe didn’t have a runner reach third in the game.
Maynor believed the Lake Charles Bucs started feeling the pressure as the game went on and they couldn’t get much going.
“Being the No. 2 seed there’s a little more pressure on them,” Maynor said. “I think they got a little tight. We had a pitcher throwing strikes. For 21 outs we were the better team.”
In the second, Townsend reached on an error on a ground ball to shortstop with one out and advanced to second on Cade Thompson’s walk. With two outs, McWilliams hit another hard grounder to shortstop. The result was another error. Townsend and Thompson both scored.
Barbe pitchers Slate Fuller and Goree combined on a three-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks. Lowery, Patton and Simmons had singles.
Haughton was no stranger to close games. The Bucs played 15 one-run games in the regular season. They lost nine of them but won four of the last six.
“We started winning some of those games at the end,” Maynor said. “Being in tight games made us a little tougher. We realized we were going to have to win close games. I think it helped us being in close games.”
Maynor also said the upset while big shouldn’t be that surprising.
“Like I told the (sportswriter) down here, you’re more likely to see a No. 31 seed in 5A win than in other classes. The teams at the bottom are all good. Our guys are good as most people’s guys.”
Tuesday night, they were better.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com