MOSS BLUFF – The curtain came down on Denham Springs’ 2019 season, one filled with tremendous promise, sooner than most expected.
With nine returning starters, including one of the nation’s top players in LSU signee Cade Doughty at shortstop, the Yellow Jackets had visions of making a deep postseason run after last year’s trip to the state regionals.
Turns out that’s exactly where the end of the road was for Denham Springs once again, running head-first into a buzz saw in second-seeded Sam Houston which eliminated the Yellow Jackets 12-2 in a second mercy-rule defeat Saturday to sweep the Class 5A state regional series.
“We were trying so hard because we didn’t want our season to end,” Denham Springs center fielder Tyler Evans said.
Coach Mark Carroll, who completed his 21st season at Denham Springs, remarked during the season that he hadn’t experienced such an injury-filled situation which derailed his team throughout the season, especially his pitching staff.
Carroll praised his team, which finished 17-15, for demonstrating character in navigating its way through a challenging season and finishing with three straight wins in the regular season to host a first-round playoff game.
“You commend the kids for getting to this point with the injuries we had,” he said. “We had a spell this season where three of our top five or six pitchers were out for an extended period which is tough in our district to move on and our kids did it. They found a way to hang around and win some games to get us to this point.”
Getting past the regional hurdle was more like trying to scale a mountain.
Sam Houston (33-4) outscored Denham Springs 24-2 in the series, outhit the Jackets 26-9 and only committed one error compared to seven.
“They definitely have a chance to,” said Carroll, when asked whether Sam Houston had what it took to win a state championship. “They’re very solid top to bottom in their order. The biggest thing is their team speed and that’s huge.”
Cameron Meeks’ 3-run homer off DSHS starter Dalton Diez put the Jackets in comeback mode from the first inning.
The only difference over Friday’s 12-0 setback, DSHS got back within a run when Noah Juan singled in a run in the bottom of the first and Evans homered a full-count offering over the left-center field fence.
DSHS wound up with seven hits against winning pitcher Kyle Bartley with second baseman Reese Smith and designated hitter Matt Delaney each picking up two hits.
“We were making better contact, starting in the first inning,” Carroll said. “We talked about getting in there and competing and that’s what we were doing.”
Sam Houston made it 4-2 in the third on Bartley’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly, but Diez gave his team a spark by avoiding further trouble with consecutive fly ball outs.
The Broncos were back for more an inning later, and much like Friday’s game when they broke it open with a seven-run third inning, they did so by batting around in the fourth.
Then things fell apart for DSHS, thus signifying the end of the season.
Sam Houston’s seven-run eruption was the result of five hits that included a two-run single from left fielder Michael Harlow and a flair from shortstop Hunter Gotreaux that fell into right field and produced another run.
The Broncos also benefitted from a bases-loaded walk and feasted on three errors that drastically altered the course of the inning.
Diez was lifted after facing six batters in the third in favor of Brandon Kohn, who finished up the last two innings and allowed two runs on four hits.
“We just don’t execute on two plays defensively,” Carroll said. “It opens the door, the floodgates open and here we go. They’re way too good a ball club to make those kinds of mistakes and try and beat them.”
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