The final sprint

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Blaine Schexnayder had one of St. Amant's four hits in their 2-0 semifinal loss to Barbe on Friday. Photo by Rodrick Anderson.

The St. Amant Gators left it all out on the field in Sulphur, but it still wasn't quite enough to defeat the nation's No. 1 team.

Barbe got a two-run blast from Shane Selman and a masterful performance by Gunner Leger on the mound to earn yet another win and a trip to the state championship game.

It was there that the Buccaneers rolled all over Like Oak 7-1 to win their seventh state title.

Saturday's championship win was their 27th straight victory overall as they finished the year at a nearly-unblemished 39-2. Maxpreps.com crowned them national champions as they topped their baseball rankings.

St. Amant might not have bolstered a No. 1 ranking, but the Gators had certainly built up some serious momentum heading into their Friday semifinal showdown with the Bucs.

The Gators had achieved an impressive winning mark of their own. They had won 20 of their previous 22 games heading into championship weekend.

Five of those victories came in the playoffs as they swept through with a perfect 5-0 record.

After squeezing past Fountainebleu in the opening round, they ground out two 3-1 wins over Archbishop Shaw to sweep the regional series.

And in the quarterfinals, St. Amant used the same formula of great pitching and timely hitting to sweep parish and district rival Dutchtown and earn their trip to Sulphur to challenge Barbe.

Right from the start, the Gators proved that they would be no pushovers. They came out swinging and challenged the top-ranked Bucs.

The St. Amant bats got off to a hot start as they produced four hits against Leger in the first three innings but unfortunately for the Gators, none of the hits sent base-runners home.

Altogether, St. Amant stranded five people on base in those crucial first three innings. Their inability to score quickly came back to haunt them.

While they were struggling to close the deal, Selman gave Barbe the most important hit of the game.

In the top of the second inning, he blasted a two-run homer that gave the Bucs a 2-0 lead.

After Selman's shot, offense was extremely scarce for each team.

Leger got into a zone--retiring 15 of the final 17 Gator batters.

St. Amant's last chance came in the top of the sixth when Reece LeBlanc got on base with a walk, but Leger quickly shut the door. He made sure that LeBlanc was the last base-runner the Gators had for the rest of the game.

Barbe was able to close out the 2-0 victory, continue their winning streak and punch their ticket to the state title game.

The brilliant performance on the mound by Leger pushed his record for the year to a perfect 17-0. He only yielded four hits to St. Amant.

Though Brennan Grant was dealt the loss, it just might have been his best pitching performance--considering the competition.

He held one of the most potent lineups in the state to just four hits and two runs. The Bucs were averaging nine runs in their five previous playoff games.

It was only Grant's third loss of the year.

The Gators just couldn't generate enough offense from the plate to help out their hurler.

Grant collected one of St. Amant's four hits, and Matthew Delaune, Blaine Schexnayder and Owen Richard had the other three. Unfortunately for the Gators, none of the four could produce an RBI.

If St. Amant could have just pulled the upset over Barbe, they would have drawn a championship matchup against a 10th-seeded Live Oak squad. They upset Jesuit 6-5 in the semifinals.

But the Gators' road ended on Friday evening. It completed a tremendous year for St. Amant.

It was a year that saw them win a share of the district title for the first time since 2000. And in their impressive run to the state semifinals, they finished with an overall record of 29-9.