There were loud cheers and words of support coming from the Destrehan dugout in the seventh inning of their Class 5A first round game against visiting Walker, its players showing fight and tenacity until the very last out. But then came a sudden hush — the season wasn’t supposed to end this way.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats fell 2-0 to No. 27 Walker Tuesday, eliminating a Destrehan team that entered the postseason as hot as any team in the state. Destrehan had lost just once over its previous 22 games —even that loss came in extra innings — and had an eye on making a deep playoff run.
But Walker’s Lane Thomas was the hero for his school. Thomas pitched a complete game two-hitter, shutting out Destrehan and outdueling LSU-committed pitcher Landon Marceaux. Thomas struck out eight and walked one, and didn’t limit his heroics to the mound: he also delivered two of his team’s four hits against Marceaux, his two RBI singles accounting for the only runs scored on the day.
“They had the best player on the field today, and that’s baseball,” Destrehan coach Chris Mire said. “We knew coming in that they had a guy. We didn’t know he’d be the guy on offense too, and that’s how it turned out.”
The tight game and pitcher’s duel played out in similar fashion to last year’s regional round classic between Destrehan and Denham Springs, a game the Wildcats won at home, 1-0 in extra innings. But this time, the visitor made good on its chances.
“Last year (against Denham Springs) we were in this same spot, and we got the big hit when we needed it,” Mire said. “It’s not for lack of effort on our guys’ part at all. We hit some balls hard, but just right at people. That’s the way it goes, sometimes.”
Destrehan (26-7-1) appeared primed to charge out the gates after leadoff batter Dane Simon socked a triple to center field in the Wildcats’ first at-bat. But Thomas retired the next three batters — an Evan Keller line drive nearly gave DHS the advantage, but it was straight to second baseman Kyle Guidry — to get out of the jam.
That stood as the game’s only hit until the top of the fourth inning, when Guidry lined a single to left to lead off. Marceaux retired the next two batters, but Guidry advanced to third and scored on Thomas’ single to right.
“I thought by the time we got to the third inning, I could tell we were getting better at bats,” said Walker coach Randy Sandifer. “We weren’t freezing as much against him as the first two innings. We got a hit in the fourth and it kind of relaxed us a bit. Now, we’re putting it in play, and they have to make plays. We got that first hit, and that fired everyone up.”
Walker added to its lead when Bailey Gautreaux drew a one-out walk to advance Chase Jeansonne to second — the latter reached on a fielder’s choice. Thomas came up and singled home Jeansonne to make it 2-0.
Brennan Cortez led off the seventh inning with a single, but Thomas retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts, to clinch the victory.
Marceaux went the complete game, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out six and walked two.
Sandifer said Thomas had great command of his off-speed pitches and that it made the difference.
“Lane’s ability to throw his off-speed pitches when behind in the count was the key,” Sandifer said.
“When you play upper echelon teams, most of them are gonna hit velocity at some point. His ability to throw the off-speed pitch kept them honest. He got a couple swings and misses, some popups on change ups.”
Mire got emotional as he spoke about the seniors on his team this season, a group he said exhibited tremendous leadership and great work-ethic.
“I feel for them, because I love this group,” said Mire. “They work their butts off. There wasn’t a Sunday they weren’t out there hitting. This is a great group … I wanted to see them win.”