Turning two

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
St. Amant's Grant Durbin tries to turn a double-play during the Gators' two-game quarterfinal sweep of Dutchtown. Photo by Dewey Keller.

It may not always be pretty, but the St. Amant Gators keep finding ways to win games.

And after adding two more close, low-scoring victories over Dutchtown on Saturday, they're headed to Sulphur for the State Baseball Tournament.

As the team dog-piled on their field, second-year head coach Troy Templet couldn't stop smiling as he pumped his fist in jubilation.

Others might have been nervous when the Gators fell down 1-0 early in game two, and their ace Skylar Enlow was uncharacteristically struggling in the first two innings. Templet knew his team wouldn't break.

"It's what we're used to. I say that every time someone comes out to interview me," Templet said. "These kids, I went out there and talked to them; nobody panicked. I told a joke, they all laughed and they relaxed. Skylar got the last out; he pitched well."

After torrential downpours cancelled Friday's game one, the two teams hit the field Saturday for a double-header.

St. Amant came out strong with an overwhelming performance by Brennan Grant on the mound. Grant shut out Dutchtown, and the Gators took game one 4-0.

It all came down to game two to see if the Griffins could force a game three on Sunday or if St. Amant could close out of the series and punch their ticket to Sulphur.

With so much riding on the game, the two teams went with their best arms. Enlow took the mound for the Gators, and Dillon Abbess took the reigns for Dutchtown.

In the first two innings, the duel looked like a mismatch in the favor of Abbess.

He retired his first six batters, but Enlow ran into some trouble.

It took Grant Durbin turning a double-play to help him escape the first inning without giving up any runs. But in the second, the Griffins finally got their first score of the series.

Payton Stafford led off the inning with a base hit, and Trey Gallman followed it up with an infield single.

Tyler Boeding eventually put up a sacrifice fly that allowed Stafford to come in and give Dutchtown a 1-0 lead.

St. Amant had gone three-up, three-down through the first three innings, but they finally generated some offense in the fourth.

Mitchell Mayard led the inning off with a walk, and Durbin got on base after Abbess mishandled a bunt.

Durbin was eventually forced out at second while Blaine Schexnayder got on base with a fielder's choice.

Grant then came through with a sacrifice fly that scored Mayard.

Things continued to fall apart for Dutchtown as Abbess struck out Reese LeBlanc, but he was still able to reach base after the third strike got past the catcher.

Justin Duhon made the Griffins pay for the mistake as he produced an RBI single into left that gave St. Amant the 2-1 lead.

Dutchtown made things interesting in the sixth as both Austin Bain and Evan Richardson got on base, but Durbin came through again. He turned another double-play that squashed the Griffin scoring threat.

In the bottom of the seventh, the plot thickened as pinch hitter Alonzo Craighton blasted a double and then reached third after a balk by Enlow.

Justin Martin was then hit by a pitch--pitting runners at the corners with two outs.

However, Enlow forced Aidan Hodges to fly out to left to end the game and give St. Amant the series sweep.

"To hold this team to one run in two games says a lot about our staff," Templet said. "We had a few good plays at short stop the first game; Blaine (Schexnayder) is the anchor of our defense. We have a great catcher in Matt Delaune. He runs the pitchers. I don't have to go out and talk to our pitchers; he talks to them. He knows exactly what to say to those guys. It was a team effort."

Both pitchers gave impressive performances. Enlow struck out five batters and only gave up six hits as he earned the complete-game victory.

Abbess was dealt the tough loss despite striking out six and only giving up two hits.

"You gotta credit those guys. They did what it takes to win a close game," Dutchtown head coach Chris Schexnaydre said. "They got the timely hits, or they scored the timely run. We just couldn't get timely hits; we had opportunities throughout the course of the game. It just wasn't our day. Tip your cap to both of their guys on the mound today; they really threw good games and made big pitches when they needed to."

Though their journey ends early, the Griffins had a great season. They finished 25-14, won a share of the district title and reached the state quarterfinals.

"We can't hang our heads on the outcome of today's games," Schexnaydre said. "Of course, we always want to move on to the state championship, but we accomplished a lot of things with a group of guys that didn't have a whole lot of varsity experience. Some of these guys had unbelievable seasons for us, and I'm just proud of them for leaving everything out on the field for us and putting in 100 percent every day."

As for St. Amant, they reach the state semifinals on the strength of two straight series sweeps.

"The big thing was us getting to play at home. These kids were excited about playing at home," Templet said. "We got a lot of community support coming to the games. It was packed the last five or so games, and they enjoy playing at home. They're going to enjoy playing in Sulphur; I can tell you that, but they seem to just play a little better here."

The 29-8 Gators will now travel away from home to take on baseball juggernaut Barbe Friday night.

The top-ranked Bucs finished the regular season 32-2 and have won 25 straight games.