On paper, No. 22 West Ouachita was undoubtedly the underdog heading into its Tuesday night road contest against No. 11 Acadiana. For folks who know a thing or two about Louisiana high school baseball, though, they knew better than to handicap this playoff game heavily in favor of the home team...
"Well, here's the deal... We went down there before the season shut down last year and had success against them," West Ouachita head coach Mitch Thomas said. "We knew they were good, but most of our guys played against them last year. So we were going to a familiar site against a team we had success against. I liked that."
The long road trip could not deter the senior Chief baseball players from continuing their high school career Tuesday night.
In a 3-1 victory over No. 11 Acadiana in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs, the Chiefs got another dominant outing from Kade Parker on the mound and perhaps the best performance of fellow senior Brady Ryals' career.
“As good as Kade pitched, Brady was that good at short,” West Ouachita head coach Mitch Thomas said. “Brady played the best game of his high school career. He made some great plays (at short), and he and Kade had a few hits. Brady also drove in a run. The thing I’m most proud of is that’s our two guys with the most experience. They’ve been playing since they were sophomores, and they played like it last night.”
Parker won the pitcher’s duel, with an assist from a defensive effort that Thomas praised. West Ouachita’s ace allowed just two hits and struck out six in the complete game effort. Parker only threw 82 pitches over seven innings. As for Ryals, he was 2-for-4 with a double in the win.
The win did more than just keep those seniors in a West Ouachita uniform for a while longer. It also signaled the 599th career victory for their ol’ skipper. Thomas was much less intrigued by that storyline.
“That just means I’ve been doing it a long time,” Thomas said. “My wife keeps track of all of that, but look, I just happened to be coaching teams that won. I’m proud of the accomplishment because we’ve had a lot of success with the kids, but as far as myself, it just means I’ve been coaching too long.”
Thomas will have the opportunity to pick up his 600th win in a road series against No. 6 Walker this weekend. West Ouachita met Walker once already this season back in the 2021 Trey Altick Prep Classic. Walker emerged victorious in a 5-0 win, but after going through District 2-5A competition, Thomas believes his team has matured since. If the old adage "iron sharpens iron" is true, District 2-5A competitors entered the playoffs with a sharp blade as five teams from the district earned second-round playoff series this weekend.
“I thought last week, the way we finished our season, we had three losses, but I thought we played three really good ballgames against top competition,” Thomas said. “I thought we were ready for the playoffs.”
The Chiefs' 3-1 victory against Acadiana marked the school's first 5A playoff win since the school was bumped up for the start of the 2019 school year. (The LHSAA spring sport postseasons were cancelled in 2020.) Tuesday's victory marked the first time since 1999 the Chiefs won a playoff game in Class 5A.