War Eagles advance to state tourney over Ascension Catholic

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com

PLAQUEMINE – District 8-1A rivals St. John and Ascension Catholic have been no strangers to each other through the years.

That familiarity favored the Eagles in a 6-1 Class 1A quarterfinal playoff victory on Monday evening that returns the squad to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Tournament for the second consecutive season.

The rivals had split their season series 1-1 both finishing 9-1 in league play but No. 4 seeded St. John (25-5) got early run support for starting left-handed pitcher Hunter Schnebelen, who also started both previous meetings.  

“They’ve got a good ball club,” St. John coach Heath Whittington said. “I knew they were better than the 12th seed and we weren’t going to overlook them. They were aggressive at the plate, but we played good defense.

“The maturity level of our guys makes a big difference. Our guys have been here before.”

The Eagles advance to face No. 9 seed Sacred Heart of Ville Platte, a 7-5 winner over top-seeded Ouachita Christian on Monday, in the state semifinals at 2 p.m. on Friday at McMurray Park in Sulphur. Central Catholic of Morgan City and Cedar Creek are the other semifinalists.

Ascension Catholic finishes the season with an overall record of 19-13. The Bulldogs had defeated St. John 9-1 before falling to the Eagles 10-9 in the second game.

“You never like to play a team three times,” Ascension Catholic coach Todd Landry said. “When we got down, it changed our philosophy.

“Schnebelen did a great job. He worked the ball in and out, was able to change speeds and kept us off balance.”

Schnebelen held the Bulldogs to a single run on one walk and six hits and struck out two. He retired the first batter in six innings and registered seven put outs on ground balls from the mound.

Brandon Noel was 3-for-3 at the plate with a home run and two RBIs, while Hayden Hemenway was 2-for-4 with two of the Eagles’ four doubles.

Falcon Mire took the loss for Ascension Catholic surrendering 10 hits, while striking out five and walking two. 

Garrett Hales was 2-for-3 to lead the Bulldogs, who grounded out a total of 14 times, at the plate.

The Eagles jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Noel’s RBI-single to left field drove in Hemenway, who drew a lead off walk.

Jacob Maranto lined over short to plate another run after Gavin Landry reached on an error. Bailey Whittington’s RBI-single to centerfield drove in courtesy runner Nicholas LeFebevre two batters later.

Hemenway lined a double to the right gap in the second inning and scored when Noel stole second base to make it 4-0.

Ascension Catholic’s lone run came in the third inning. Grant Montero drew a one-out walk and scored on Ross Barbier’s sacrifice fly following Nick Bellina’s double to the left gap.

Noel led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a solo home run to straight away centerfield to push the lead to 5-1.

The Eagles added a final insurance run in the sixth. Hemenway doubled to the left gap and scored on a RBI-single by Patin to shallow right.