WALKER -- Sometime soon, a new-look Live Oak team will have to put its gloves and bats down as a group. Football will summon some. Vacations lie ahead. And then the school year arrives in August.
You can’t blame Eagles’ coach Greg Briggs if he wishes he could fast-forward all of that to January. Because his crew is playing at a level that will make a the six-month wait before they reconvene awfully tough to manage.
With the Metro League season hitting the home stretch, Live Oak is playing exceptionally well and Walker was a victim last Thursday. The Eagles banged out 16 hits on the way to a 12-1 romp past the Wildcats, with Cade Freneaux, Lane Hutchinson and Bailey Simoneaux supplying three hits apiece.
Hutchinson drove in runs with each of his hits, Simoneaux added a pair of RBIs and Freneaux belted a no-doubt solo home run to add some thunder to Live Oak’s lightning, which included three late extra-base hits.
“We’re swinging the bats pretty good right now for a bunch of guys who haven’t played a lot consistently,” said Briggs, whose crew will have to fill several key spots in 2018 after graduation losses. “Guys are having real good approaches and a lot of guys are squaring the ball up.”
That part of the night was bad enough for the Wildcats. When they injected their own mistakes to the mix, things got considerably worse.
The Eagles bolted in front 4-0 in the top of the 1st inning, all the damage coming with two outs when three Walker errors and a wave of stolen bases and hits blended together.
Wildcats’ starter Tristan Vaughn recorded two outs after hitting Rhett Rosevear with a pitch, but Walker couldn’t get the door closed. Freneaux and Hutchinson smacked consecutive singles, while Cameron Dickerson reached on an error.
Before the Wildcats could get off the diamond, Simoneaux, Sal Palermo and Zach Legendre banged out three more hits.
“When you have three errors and give them four runs in the 1st inning, it’s hard to come back,” Walker assistant coach Michael Palermo said. “We had too many walks, errors killed us and we couldn’t stop them from stealing. We didn’t have any answers.”
Not that Live Oak’s pitching was willing to let Walker creep back in.
Big sophomore right-hander Sal Palermo got the start and wobbled early, when he issued a leadoff walk to Chase Jeansonne. But the Eagles’ defense was the polar opposite of the Cats’, with Palermo triggering an odd 1-3-4 double play to deflate the threat.
After that, Walker managed only four hits against Palermo, Hutchinson and Cody Crifasi, none that generated runs.
“We’re trying to create some depth on the mound,” Briggs said. “We know what we have in Simoneaux and we’re not throwing him a lot this summer to let his arm rest. So we’re letting other guys come in and show what they can do.”
The Wildcats encountered a familiar problem with clutch swings when they did manage to nick the Live Oak pitchers. Walker was 3-for-13 with runners on base and 0-for-6 with men in scoring position.
Sal Palermo’s final pitch in the 3rd inning yielded a line-drive double play to Hutchinson at shortstop and that was one of three innings when WHS had at least two runners on base and couldn’t capitalize.
“In this game, everything is mental and we don’t seem ready to handle that very well yet,” Michael Palermo said. “We were in an offensive funk last year and broke out if it, but this is a new group of guys and I’m not sure they believe in what they can do yet.”
While Walker struggled, the Eagles just kept hanging up runs.
Freneaux slammed his solo bomb to re-light the fuse after Live Oak’s only scoreless frame in the 2nd. Two walks, a wild pitch and Rhett Rosevear’s sacrifice fly set the stage for a three-run 4th, punctuated by Hutchinson’s second RBI single.
The Eagles finished with a two-out flurry in the 6th when Freneaux extended the inning with a single, Hutchinson blistered double to left field, Dickerson pumped a triple to left-center field and Simoneaux added the exclamation point with another RBI double.
Both teams keep grinding in Metro League action this week.
Life Oak heads to East Ascension Monday and hosts Denham Springs High on Thursday. The Wildcats meet the Yellow Jackets Tuesday at North Park, play host to Dutchtown on Wednesday and play at Parkview Baptist on Thursday.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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