Gators sweep the Braves to reach quarterfinals

Kyle Riviere
St. Amant's Alex LeBourgeois tags out an H.L. Bourgeois runner. In the Gators' game-one win, LeBourgeois had two huge RBIs. Photo by Tammy Gaudin.

With a second-round sweep of H.L. Bourgeois, St. Amant is headed to the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in six years.

Though the Gators made it look easy in Saturday morning's game two, the 30th-seeded Braves had St. Amant on the ropes for much of game one.

The Gators had to fight back from a late two-run deficit. Alex LeBourgeois provided the heroics as he laid down a beautiful suicide squeeze that scored the winning run in a scintillating 6-5 victory.

"The kid pitched well for them. We executed some things when it counted," St. Amant head coach Troy Templet said. "It wasn't pretty for a lot of innings there. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but you have to give credit to them. I'm proud of the way they stayed in there and went 21 outs."

H.L. Bourgeois was fresh off of a shocking first-round upset over third-seeded Acadiana, and they didn't let up early on against the Gators.

St. Amant started Southeastern signee Dwain Guice. It was his first start since the beginning of the year.

He missed most of the season with a shoulder injury and had only returned recently. His role had been as a closer in the final two innings.

Guice's return got off to a rocky start as the Braves collected three hits and one run in the first inning.

But St. Amant responded at the bottom of the frame.

Leadoff batter Ayden Phillips was hit by a pitch and then sent home on a Landen Lieux double. Lieux then scored on a double by Reed Babin that gave the Gators a 2-1 advantage.

However, Guice ran into more trouble in the third.

He surrendered two hits, one walk and he hit two other batters. A St. Amant fielding error didn't help matters. It all added up to a three-run inning for the Braves that put them back ahead, 4-2.

The Gators cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth.

Tyson Cowart led off with a triple, and he was able to score on a deep fly ball from Lieux.

But H.L. Bourgeois pushed the advantage back to two in the top of the sixth when Cullen Nyssen crushed a solo home run against reliever Austin Delaune.

In the bottom of the inning, Gant Gautreaux led off with a double for the Gators. LeBourgeois then got St. Amant within one with an RBI single.

Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh and down to their final two outs, Lieux reached base after being hit by a pitch.

Teddy Webb came in to run for him, and he quickly moved to third after a Brave throwing error followed a Reed infield single. Brady Kunefke came in to run for Reed.

After Zane Zeppuhar was intentionally walked to load the bases, Webb scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

Gautreaux was also walked to load the bases. This set up the brilliant suicide squeeze.

Kunefke got a great jump and was nearly home before LeBourgeois even made contact with the ball. LeBourgeois laid down a perfect bunt, and Kunefke scored with ease to lock up the walkoff victory for the Gators.

"I think that's our fifth or sixth walkoff win," Templet said. "They didn't stop believing. We got on with a hit batter with one out, and we just had some quality at-bats. We battled."

From the plate, Lieux went 2-3 with two RBIs. Babin was 3-4 with an RBI, and LeBourgeois went 1-3 and collected the Gators' final two RBIs.

In three and a half innings of relief, Delaune gave up just four hits and one run.

"He had three pitches going for him--fast ball, curve ball and the changeup. It kept them off-balanced," Templet said. "He got some groundouts and some fly balls. He grinded it out. He held them to one run, which was enough for us to come back."

In game two, Zeppuhar had a big day from the mound, earning the victory in a 12-0 blowout. The win clinched the series and pushed the Gators through to the quarterfinals.

St. Amant has now won 11 of their last 12 games.

They will hit the road to face sixth-seeded Sulphur (28-9) in a best-of-three series, which starts on Friday.