Smart baseball: War Eagles advance to state tourney over St. Frederick, Westminster

St. John's Morgan Booksh beats out a grounder to St. Frederick first baseman Matt Minninger in the War Eagles' 4-3 Class 1A regional playoff victory on Tuesday. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

PLAQUEMINE – St. John the Evangelist High School overcame St. Frederick Catholic High School and Westminster Christian Academy in the Class 1A playoffs to advance to the LHSAA State Baseball Tournament May 10-11 at the University of Louisiana – Monroe's Warhawk Field.

The No. 6 seeded War Eagles (28-6), under coach Heath Whittington, pushed past St. Frederick 4-3 on Tuesday in Plaquemine before rallying by Westminster Christian 4-1 on Saturday in Bellevue.

"It's been a great ride," Whittington said. "Life is about the moments we share together. Let's make a few more memories. Never give up, even when you are down to your last out, down to your last strike, down to your last game."

St. John – Plaquemine will tangle No. 2 seed Mangham (26-8) at 4 p.m. on Friday in the Class 1A semifinals. The teams split two games in each other's tournaments earlier in the season. The Dragons defeated St. John 6-4 in Mangham before the War Eagles defeated Mangham 9-4 at St. John.

The winner moves on to the state finals against the victor of defending champion No. 1 seed Ouachita Christian (30-5) and No. 5 Central Catholic (23-7) of Morgan City at 4 p.m. on Saturday. It marks the first time St. John has advanced to the semifinals since 2001-03.

The War Eagles were down to their last strike on Saturday trailing 1-0 with two outs in the seventh inning when leadoff hitter Morgan Booksh lined an 0-and-2 pitch for a double that eventually led to three more hits and four runs.

"I was thinking it would be a fastball but what I was most concerned about was striking out," Booksh said.

Colby Landry's single up the middle drove in the tying run before shortstop Trevor Curry was intentionally walked and designated hitter Jacob Caballero and first baseman Seth Gulotta followed with consecutive singles.

"This win is incredible," Whittington said. "We weren't taking and (Booksh) reached out and got it."

St. John starting lefthander Hunter Schnebelen struck out six before second baseman Booksh picked up the win in one 2/3 innings of relief.

Jalen Williams took the loss for 14th seeded Westminster (18-12) striking out 10.

"A game of inches is what they say and that's the way it ended for us," Westminster coach Barry Manuel said. "I have to be proud of my team finishing strong."

St. John third baseman Christopher Patin helped keep the game scoreless through five innings when he fielded a ground ball, stepped on the bag for the force out and threw to first for a double play in the fourth.

The Crusaders went ahead in the sixth when an errant throw allowed Williams to score on Tyler Louviere's single.

Booksh scored the go-ahead run against St. Frederick in the fifth inning and also earned the win after pitching out of a bases loaded jam.

Schnebelen struck out three in the start but walked four over four 1/3 innings.

"We played smart baseball and that is how we win," Whittington said. "We have been here before and we weren't going to bend. They swung it well but we played good defense and kept the ball in front of us."

Patrick Whipple took the loss for the 11th seeded Warriors (15-14) striking out five over seven innings but walking five.

"It was a tough loss," St. Frederick coach Robert Devinney IV said. "Both teams battled all game. Today we just got beat by a good team."

Whipple walked the first three batters he faced before hitting Caballero to put St. John on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Gulotta's sacrifice fly made it 2-0.

St. Frederick answered in the third inning when Whipple lined a two-run single through the left infield. Ben Sims singled to lead off the inning before a pair of walks loaded the bases.

The War Eagles regained the lead 3-2 in the bottom half on an errant throw after Curry grounded through the right infield. Booksh beat out a grounder to lead off the inning.

The Warriors led off the fifth with back-to-back singles from Peyton Braswell and Seth Christian before Schnebelen walked consecutive batters tying the game.

But Schnebelen helped St. John get out of the inning by running down two liners in centerfield.

Gulotta's fly scored the go ahead run in the fifth after Booksh and Landry drew consecutive walks to lead off the bottom half.

Catcher Jacob Maranto lined a two-out single to center in the fifth but courtesy runner Hayden Hemenway was thrown out attempting to steal third base.

Booksh struck out Whipple in the seventh before Justin Maranto knocked down a liner and shoveled to Curry from second to end the game.