SULPHUR — Senior pitcher Spencer Davis was unquestionably the face of Sterlington’s first-ever state baseball championship in 2017. Two years later, Trey Rugg was the Panthers’ unofficial — yet undisputed — team captain.
Like Davis, Rugg is leaving Sterlington as a state champion.
“This is absolutely amazing,” Rugg said following the Panthers’ 4-2 victory over South Beauregard in the state championship game. “I’ve been thinking about this since football season.”
An All-State offensive tackle, Rugg also helped the Panthers reach the state finals in football. Not that Rugg needed it, but the loss to Eunice provided motivation for his senior baseball season.
“I’m glad we were able to end our baseball season the right way,” Rugg said. “Another state runner-up trophy would have been awful.”
Gazing back toward the field as he conducted his final postgame interview, Rugg said, “Emotions are everywhere today,”
Parker Coley’s three-run triple in the bottom of the first staked the Panthers to an early 4-0 lead.
“I was absolutely ecstatic when Parker hit the triple,” Rugg said. “He kept his back side in and hit the ball to right field like we were trying to do the whole game.”
Pitching has long been the Panthers’ trademark. Whether it’s Casey Sutton, Spencer Davis, Trey Rugg or Adam Tubbs on the mound, playing catch-up against Sterlington is a no-win situation.
“We got an early lead and let our pitchers work,” Rugg said. “That’s the way we like to play our games.”
When Tubbs was removed in the fifth inning with a blister on his pitching hand, Harrison Womack came on to protect the 4-2 lead. Struggling early, Womack worked out of a bases-loaded jam on his way to pitching 2.2 innings of scoreless ball.
Rugg made a quick trip to the mound in the fifth.
“I told (Womack) to keep his composure, which he’s pretty good about doing,” Rugg said. “I told him to just get ahead and let them put the ball in play. I tried to reassure him and let him know we had his back. I wanted to make sure he understood that he didn’t have to do it all by himself.”
With two state championships in three years, Rugg and classmates Davis Johnson and Kyle Elee have set a new standard for excellence for Sterlington baseball. As he passed the torch Tuesday afternoon, Rugg made his expectations for the 2020 Panthers clear.
“I expect the same thing next year, maybe even a little better. Maybe they can go undefeated,” Rugg said.
Going undefeated is probably unrealistic, especially taking Rugg’s 15-1 record and sub-1.00 ERA into consideration. But with eight returning starters, the Panthers don’t seem to be going away any time soon.
“I expect big things from (Braden) Hough, Tubbs and Reece (Brooks). There are a lot of great leaders in that group,” Rugg said. “I’m going to have to make it to some games next year.”
Maybe Rugg can make another trip to Sulphur next May.