The race continues

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant's Owen Richard races past second in the Gators' game-one victory over Archbishop Shaw. Photo by Dewey Keller.

After a second-round home sweep of Archbishop Shaw over the weekend, St. Amant is back in the state quarterfinals for the second straight year.

The Gators tested out the LHSAA's new 5A playoff format that features best of three series in the second and third rounds. As it turns out, a third game wasn't needed for No. 5 St. Amant.

After skating by Fontainebleau in the opening round, the Gators beat No. 12 Shaw 3-1 on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon to earn another trip to the quarterfinals.

St. Amant set the tone Friday night when they once again grinded out a close win with great pitching by Skylar Enlow and timely hits from the plate.

Enlow locked horns with Shaw's Jace Nini in a big-time pitcher's duel through four innings. In that time, no runs were scored, and Enlow mowed down seven Eagle batters.

The first runs didn't come until the bottom of the fifth inning.

St. Amant catcher Matthew Delaune led off with a single into rightfield, and Brock Bowen followed it up with a perfect bunt to join him on base.

Owen Richard then loaded up the bases after his bunt was met with a Shaw fielding error.

That's when the Gators put up the game's first runs. Mitchell Mayard came through for St. Amant with a big two-RBI single.

"We laid a couple of balls down and put a little bit of pressure on them with our speed when we got on base," Gator head coach Troy Templet said. "Mitchell Mayard fought back from an 0-2 count, fought all the way back to a full count and then got a base hit. That was huge for us right there."

With the 2-0 lead, the St. Amant defense came alive in the top of the sixth as they ended the inning with a double-play.

The same can't be said for Shaw. Their defense really let Nini down in the bottom of the sixth as the bases quickly loaded after two Eagle fielding errors.

Once again, Mayard sent another run home after he took a walk.

Up 3-0 and headed to the seventh, things looked well in hand for the Gators, but that's when Enlow ran into problems for the first time all game.

Matt Keller led off the inning with a walk and then reached second after a passed ball to Delaune.

Kyle Flettrich then singled to put runners on the corners with no outs.

Tyler Dixon was brought in to try to get the Gators out of the tough situation, but his defense made it tough on him.

St. Amant fell victim to two crucial fielding errors--allowing Shaw to score a run. However, Dixon never flinched. With runners on, he calmly retired three Eagle batters and earned the hard-fought game-one victory for the Gators.

"Getting that extra run in the sixth proved to be very crucial with them getting that run in the seventh. We're just finding ways to score runs at the end of games again," Templet said.

Mayard was the hero for St. Amant. He drove in all three of the Gators' runs as he finished 2-3 with three RBIs and a walk.

From the mound, it was another strong effort for Enlow; he only gave up five hits, no earned runs and struck out seven batters.

"It was another great pitching performance from Skylar Enlow," Templet said. "He sort of lost it there in the seventh, and we put Tyler Dixon in the same position we've been putting him in, and he has been coming through for us every time. He came in there with the huge save for us and threw strikes."

When asked how he liked the new best of three format, Coach Templet joked, "I'll tell you after tomorrow. It's what we got, and we're just playing. It's what they say we have to do, so we're just going to try to win two out of three."

Well, St. Amant earned another 3-1 win the next day to close out Shaw and punch a ticket to the quarterfinals, so it's probably safe to say that the new format is just fine with the Gator skipper.

Fittingly, St. Amant will have to face parish and district rival Dutchtown in their quarterfinal series. The two split wins during the regular season and ended the year as tri-champions of District 5-5A along with Catholic.

Game one of the series will begin at Gator Park on Friday night.