Berwick High School's six senior baseball players graduated on Field 41 at McMurry Park Thursday in Sulphur prior to the team's Class 3A semifinal contest against top-seed Sterlington. The Panthers' seniors graduated away from home because the school's graduation was held the same day as the 3A semifinals. Graduates, from left, are Lucas Hatch, Kyle Pitre, Patrick Robertson, Kyle Boudreaux, Reid Wiley and Denver Jenkins. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Seth Canty, left, and Shayne Berger celebrate following No. 4 Berwick High School's 8-6 upset victory of No. 1 Sterlington in one Class 3A semifinal Thursday at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Berwick will play for the Class 3A title Saturday against No. 3 Iota, which defeated No. 2 Brusly, 3-0, in the other 3A semifinal Thursday. Berwick and Iota will square off Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on Field 40 at McMurry Park. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Berwick High School's Kyle Pitre pitches during the Panthers' semifinal contest against Sterlington Thursday at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Berwick, Class 3A's fourth-ranked seed, upset top-ranked Sterlington, 8-6, to advance to the school's first state baseball title game since 1994. The Panthers last won a baseball title in 1978. Berwick will face No. 3 Iota Saturday in the 3A title game on Field 40 at McMurry Park. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. (The Daily Review/Geoff Stoute)
Graduate-level play: No. 4 Berwick holds off top-ranked Sterlington, 8-6, to advance to 3A title game
After watching Berwick High School’s six seniors graduate on the field prior to the team’s Class 3A semifinal contest against top-ranked Sterlington Thursday at McMurry Park, the fourth-ranked Panthers executed some graduate-level play on the field to lift the squad to an upset victory and into Saturday’s Class 3A finals.
While Berwick (28-8) held a two-run lead at 8-6 and appeared headed for a quick inning in the bottom of the seventh, Sterlington (32-4) wouldn’t have it.
With two outs, Berwick High School senior pitcher Kyle Pitre hit Sterlington’s Davis Johnson with a pitch before Brocks Rushworth doubled to centerfield to put runners at second and third base.
However, the next batter, Braden Hough, who two innings before had tied the game at 6 with a two-RBI double to the right field wall, hit a ground ball to Kyle Boudreaux. Boudreaux fielded the ball, threw to first baseman Zeph Hoffpauir for the game’s final out, and Berwick’s celebration began.
“It’s easy when you have a defense like I have,” Pitre said of pitching in pressure-packed situations. “I think I had one strikeout tonight. They made the rest of the plays. This one’s on them. I had nothing to do with that. They deserve all the glory for this.”
The Panthers will play No. 3 Iota High School (33-6), which topped No. 2 Brusly, 3-0, in the game prior to Berwick’s, Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on Field 40. The championship-game appearance will be the Panthers’ first since 1994. The Panthers last won a state baseball title in Class 2A in 1978. Berwick High School assistant coach Lud Henry was a senior on that squad.
“I can’t even imagine what that’s going to be like Saturday. There’s going to be so many people here for Berwick. We can’t wait. … We got to go get some rest. We got to figure out how we’re going to do this thing, but we’re going to be ready to play. Listen to them now,” Berwick coach Brandon Bravata said as a roar among the Berwick contingent erupted in the background.
In Thursday’s game, the Panthers took the lead for good in the top of sixth when Brett Williams, who was 0-for-3 overall in the game, including 0-for-1 against Sterlington reliever Adam Tubbs, connected on a double to left field to score Reid Wiley and Mitchell Sanford.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Williams said of the hit. “I’m blessed to be able to be the one to do that. It’s unbelievable.”
Throughout the game, Pitre and the Panthers were resilient as they bounced back from adversity with an answer to every Sterlington score.
“That was a gutsy performance,” Bravata said. “I don’t think we panicked. I think there were some times where we had some issues, situations where we could have panicked, and we didn’t. I’m so proud of Kyle Pitre on the mound. He didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but we played some defense. We had two mistakes, but we made some great plays. We were good in the infield for the most part.”
Not panicking is a lesson Berwick learned after blowing a 5-0 lead to Ascension Catholic in its regular-season finale in a 6-5 loss. The ability to stay calm when faced with adversity was impressed upon the team after that game.
“If you punch us in the mouth, we’re going to come back and punch you back in the mouth,” Williams said. “We’re not going to give up. We know we can come back and put up runs on the board.”
Pitre earned the complete-game victory. In seven innings, he surrendered six runs (three earned) on eight hits with two walks, one hit batter and one strikeout.
He received some solid defense from his teammates, too.
However, it was Pitre’s bat that got things going initially for the Panthers as he connected on a two-RBI double to deep left field in the top of the first for a 2-0 Berwick lead.
Sterlington, whose mascot also is the Panthers, countered in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with nobody out via a single by Tucker Allen, a walk to Brock Risinger and a bunt by Seaver Sheets. Sheets is the son of ex-Major League Baseball player Ben Sheets.
While Pitre got the next batter, Jarrett McDonald, to ground out to second base for the first out, the Panthers got on the board on the play.
Another run scored one batter latter when Carson Clowers’ bunt brought home the second Panther to tie the game at 2.
Johnson gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead on a sacrifice fly to centerfield before Pitre ended the damage, forcing a fly out to centerfield.
Berwick came right back in the fourth inning with back-to-back RBI-doubles by Chad LaGrange and Reid Wiley to left field to take a 4-3 lead.
Sterlington then made a pitching change, replacing starter Trey Rugg with Tubbs.
Sanford, the first batter Tubbs faced, connected on an RBI triple that ricocheted off the left field wall to score Wiley for a 5-3 Berwick lead.
While Sterlington put runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the fourth, Pitre escaped the jam as the Panthers converted a 6-4-3 double play to get the runners at second base and first base to end the inning.
On the play, Robertson took third base and came home when the errant pickoff throw by Sterlington’s catcher to try to get Kyle Boudreaux on the steal went into centerfield.
Sterlington didn’t go away, though.
With two outs and runners on first and third in the bottom of the fifth, Rushworth connected on an RBI single to left-centerfield to cut Berwick’s lead to 6-4.
The next batter, Hough, doubled down the right field line to the wall, scoring two runs to tie the game at six.
Berwick outhit Sterlington 9-8 in the game
Top Berwick hitters were: Hoffpauir, 2-for-3, with a stolen base and a run; Boudreaux, 2-for-4, a run; Williams and Pitre, each 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs; Sanford, 1-for-3, a triple, an RBI and a run; Wiley, 1-for-3, a double, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs; and LaGrange, 1-for-3, a double, an RBI and a run.
Tubbs suffered the loss in relief. In 3.2 innings, he surrendered three runs (two earned) on three hits with four walks, one hit batter and three strikeouts.
Rugg started the game but received a no-decision. In 3.1 innings, he surrendered five runs (three earned) on six hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
Rushworth and Hough led Sterlington’s hitters. Rushworth finished 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run, while Hough was 1-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Other top Sterlington hitters were Johnson, 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run; Clowers, 1-for-4, an RBI; and McDonald, an RBI.