SULPHUR — For Sterlington junior Braden Hough, Sunday’s 1-0 Class 3A state semifinal victory over Berwick represented a double portion of redemption. Not only did the top-seeded Panthers avenge an 8-6 2018 semifinal loss to the eventual state champions, Hough delivered the game-winning hit a year after leaving the tying run aboard.
Stepping to the plate with one out and a runner on second, Hough slashed a base hit over the second baseman’s head and into right field to plate Reece Brooks with the only run of the game.
“I was in the same situation last year against Berwick in the semifinals. We had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and I didn’t come through,” Hough said.
This time would be different.
“I knew before I stepped in the box,” Hough said. “I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to let that happen again this year.”
Unlike last year, Hough stepped to the plate with complete confidence.
“Last year, I was nervous,” Hough recalled. “This year, I was locked in. I knew I was going to get it done.”
Brooks started the inning with a perfectly-placed roller down the left field line. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was effective as Brooks scampered to first without a throw.
“I took a peak, so I knew I was going to beat it out,” Brooks said. “They were playing too deep when I got into the box.”
Brooks scurried to second when Seaver Sheets squared to bunt and the ball got past the catcher. Berwick coach Brandon Bravata argued that Sheets tipped the ball, but Brooks was allowed to remain at second after a brief umpire’s conference.
“I couldn’t tell if Seaver tipped it or not,” Brooks said. “I just saw it get past the catcher and ran to second.”
Moments later, Brooks was racing home.
“I knew as soon as it went off the bat,” Brooks said. “It was perfectly elevated, so I knew it was getting over (the second baseman).”
Brooks said the run was the least the Panthers could do for Rugg, who held Berwick to four hits over eight innings.
“We owed Trey a run,” Brooks said.
Hough, who played first base Sunday and has platooned with Grant Mangrum behind the plate of late, says Rugg’s effort epitomizes the Panthers.
“Trey threw eight great innings,” Hough said. “He battled. Trey’s just a warrior on the mound. Everybody on this team is a warrior. We scrap our way through every game. There’s not another team I would want to play for.”
As Hough strode to the batters box, Rugg was convinced there would be no ninth inning.
“I knew Hough was going to do it,” Rugg said. “He’s be a leader for us all year.”