For the third time in the last four complete seasons, the West Monroe Rebels will make their way down to Sulphur to compete in the Class 5A state tournament.
The No. 2 Rebels carved their path with a two-game sweep against No. 10 Dutchtown at Shelby Aulds Field. The Rebels are still chasing their first state championship ring under West Monroe head coach Wade Simoneaux.
“We want to win it, no doubt,” Simoneaux said. “We have to play better.”
The Rebels won 28 games in a row back in 2017 before ultimately losing in the state championship game to Central, 4-2. This team undoubtedly took a different route down to Sulphur. The Rebels entered the quarterfinal series against Dutchtown having won six of the previous seven games by one run each.
“It’s a different course that we take,” Simoneaux said. “We were 38-2 and probably 10-run ruled 20 teams that year. We were never tested. This team is tested. It’s battle tested. We’ve had our ups, our downs. We’ve played the toughest schedule in the state, and it’s paid off.”
After 10-run ruling the Griffins Friday night, West Monroe engaged in a back-and-forth contest that ultimately culminated in a 10-7 victory.
Early on, it was all Dutchtown. A four-pitch inning for Dutchtown’s Nathan Monceaux fed a frenzy of Dutchtown fans that were vocal throughout with loud cheers. A single, followed by a passed ball also put a runner in scoring position with no outs for the Griffins in the bottom frame. Payton Cooper’s sacrifice fly scored two Griffin runners, as Josh Pearson tried to catch a Dutchown runner tagging from second to third. The ball bounced off the base runner and into the dugout to allow two runs to cross the plate.
The Griffins momentum was suspended. After getting two quick outs, back-to-back singles by Britt Jordan and Cole Brasher placed runners at second and third. Tanner Young hit a chopper to short but the throw from Griffins shortstop Hayden Kibbe took the first baseman off the bag for the force out. That allowed two Rebel runs to cross. Another error at short allowed two more runs to cross for West Monroe, as the Rebels led 4-2 in the second inning.
West Monroe committed its own error in the following inning with two outs, as Logan Shurden’s throw went wide and into the dugout. That allowed another Dutchtown run to cross. The very next batter hit a shot into right field that bounced off the glove of Kade Pittard, allowing the Griffins to tie the game, 4-4. Tanner Vadnais hit an RBI single to put the Griffins up 5-4.
Logan Shurden tied the game back up in the third inning when he hit a shot up the infield to score Pearson, who reached with a double.
“We have to play better than we did (Saturday) for sure,” Simoneaux said. “We had some drops out there. But we had some good two-strike at bats that put some pressure on their shortstop. We got four runs off of two-strike at bats. That’s huge. That’s something that we preach.”
Dutchtown’s Pierone Parent led off the bottom of the third with a double, but after Hayden Federico made another stellar play at third base, Seth Edwards caught Parent leaning on second and picked him off to eliminate the threat.
Dutchtown’s Nathan Monceaux faced Federico and Pearson with the bases loaded in the fourth inning and got out of the inning unscathed. Monceaux struck out Federico before getting Pearson to fly out to end the inning.
While errors in the field highlighted this back-and-forth contest, outstanding plays were still made in the field, like when Reed Eason dove to take away a base hit in left field during the fourth inning.
Edwards ended his day in the fifth after Tanner Vadnais singled and advanced to second on a sacrifice. With one out, Trey Hawsey relieved Edwards on the mound and got back-to-back flyouts to get out of the inning.
West Monroe got right back in the driver seat in the following inning. With two outs, Eason walked and Federico was hit by a pitch to put two on for Pearson. This time Pearson delivered a single to score Eason and put the Rebels on top, 6-5.
“I was kind of disappointed in myself last time I hit a line drive to the centerfielder, but I was just trying to get the run in and get ahead,” Pearson said. “I had faith in our pitching to keep us ahead.”
Hawsey followed with a 3-run homer to blow the game open. Jordan’s third hit of the day scored another run to put the Rebels on top, 10-5.
“We’re just ready at all times,” Hawsey said. “We’re ready for anything that comes at us.”
Hawsey’s pitch count ran up as he gave up two hits and walked two batters in the sixth. Hawsey walked in a run and had the bases loaded with two outs, facing a 3-1 count. That’s when Simoneaux tossed the ball to Brasher to close the game out. Brasher walked the batter but came right back to strike out Dutchtown’s Parent to get out of the jam.
“In a tight ballgame you have to decide if you want to burn your guys,” Simoneaux said. “Hawsey and (Cole) Brasher are my two guys. We went all in to get the win.”
Leading 10-7, Brasher shut the door with two strikeouts in the final inning.
Jordan led the team with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, while Shurden and Pearson each recorded two hits apiece.
Game 1: West Monroe 10, Dutchtown 0
After six of their previous seven games were won by a single run, West Monroe coaches were looking for a night without drama in a bad way. Thanks to a 10-0 six-inning victory against Dutchtown in Game 1 Friday night, they got just that.
West Monroe totaled 12 hits, while ace Lane Little limited the Griffins to just one hit in the lopsided win. Little completed his eighth complete game of the year, saving the Rebels bullpen for the rest of the weekend should they be called upon.
Little allowed one hit and two walks and struck out six in the win in his final time to pitch at Shelby Aulds Field.
“That was running through my head the whole time,” Little said. “Coming out of here, it’s kind of a good feeling knowing it will be your last. You can come out here with no pressure. Let the defense play. They came up with big plays behind me.”
Offensively, freshman Hayden Federico had another phenomenal day. Federico was one triple shy of hitting for the cycle with a 4-for-4 day at the plate. In the last four playoff games, Federico is hitting .692 for the Rebels.
Josh Pearson was also a hard out on Friday night. Pearson was 3-for-4, while Reed Eason and Logan Shurden each recorded two hits apiece.
The Rebels will play Walker in the semifinals Thursday at 2 p.m.
“We’ve got a shot at it,” Simoneaux said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. It’s how we play.”