East Iberville tops rival White Castle

Zachary Junda
East Iberville’s Jake Harelson pitching against a White Castle batter.

The East Iberville High School Tiger baseball team (10-8, 1-5) spoiled White Castle High's (7-9, 0-5) senior day ceremonies in a 6-1A rivalry game thanks in large part to dominant pitching and aggression on the base paths.

East Iberville picked up its first district win of the 2019 season 4-2 Wednesday afternoon at Eric "Aceman" Anderson Park behind Jake Harelson's ten strikeouts. Harelson handcuffed White Castle and retired the first 11 Bulldog batters he faced. Harelson was able to hurl his fastball past White Castle's batters and perplexed them with a nasty slider that he threw in an unorthodox sidearm manner.

"He has four true pitches, but that sidearm is something he pulls in," Mike Harelson, Jake's father and East Iberville's pitching coach said after the game. "It adds another look. It's a slider he's throwing sidearm, and it gives crazy looks. When he'd get up in the count, that's when you'd see it."

East Iberville was able to pounce on White Castle early by manufacturing a run in the first inning. Leadoff hitter and shortstop Bryce Purpera got to first thanks to an error by White Castle second basemen Jacobi Davis. Purpera stole second and scored the run two batters later when Harelson knocked a single to right field.

The Tigers scored their second run in the fourth inning the same way they did in the first: Purpera getting on base, stealing second, and being driven in this time by catcher Hunter Crochet.

White Castle was able to tie the game in the fourth inning. Kobe Green was White Castle's first baserunner after drawing a two-out walk. He scored thanks to a D.J. Pierce triple. Pierce was able to steal home because of a throwing error by East Iberville's Crochet.

The Tigers and Bulldogs back-and-forth affair continued into the fifth inning. Crochet reached on a fielder's choice, moved to third on a Harelson single and scored on a Sky'Lur Flemming sacrifice bunt to put the Tigers up 3-2.

White Castle had a chance to tie the game in the fifth but blew its opportunity. The Bulldogs had runners on second and third with one out when centerfielder Tahj Favorite flew out to right field. The ball was hit deep enough to score the runner from third, but White Castle first basemen Logan LeBlanc didn't tag up and had to stay at third.

Shortstop Darius Smith struck out to end the inning, and White Castle's best scoring opportunity yielded no runs.

"We just didn't tag up," White Castle coach Mike Calamia said afterward.

The play of Wednesday's game came in the sixth inning and is owed to more aggressive base running by the Tigers. With two outs, Tiger first basemen Skylar Jones struck out but made it to first because Bulldog catcher Kobe Green dropped the ball and made an errant throw. With Jones on, he stole second, reached third on another off-target throw by Green, and scored when the White Castle outfield overthrew the ball back into the infield.

"We are very aggressive," East Iberville head coach Moroni Pointer said. "We teach our kids how to get those runs in and know what's going on in a given situation."

The seventh inning had absolutely no drama for East Iberville and Harelson. The Tiger pitcher faced three batters and struck out all three to end the game.

"I told [Harelson] to stay focused and know his batters," Pointer said. "Certain batters were pretty challenging, so he had to change up his pitches there against a couple of batters. But for the most part when he got around five through nine they weren't making a lot of contact. So it kind of saved a lot of those pitches and he could throw it over the plate and throw strikes."

The Bulldogs will round out their season on April 19 in a final district match at Southern Lab. The Tigers face Broadmoor (5-5A) on April 20 to complete their season.