By DAVE WOODALL
Tammany West sports
SULPHUR – In championship baseball playing errorless ball usually wins you games.
That’s exactly what happened Friday afternoon at McMurry Park in Sulphur where the #8 seeded Neville Tigers ended the #21 seeded Salmen Spartans season in a 2-1 win in the Class 4A semifinals.
Neville advances to take on the Tioga/Breaux Bridge winner in the championship game at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Stellar defensive plays were on display as Neville played errorless ball while the Spartans has four miscues.
The last few weeks have made believers out of those who doubted the tenacity of the underdog Spartans.
After all, they had a 1-6 record in the early part of the season.
But they erased all that negativity with a sweep of a tough Lakeshore Titan squad to capture the District 8-4A title.
And then, despite receiving a #21 seed, went on the road to Shreveport and defeated #12 seed Northwood.
Their next conquest was at home where they bested the #28 seed Plaquemines Devils winning two games in a best-of-three.
Next, they took another pair at home again, this time against the #29 seeded Carencro Bears to advance to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Neville (24-16) jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Spartans (19-19).
The Tigers scored on a walk and a double in the first inning and an infield hit and an error in the second.
Salmen starter Andre Beaudoin weathered the storm and went on to shutout the Tigers in the remaining five innings with pitching that overpowered Neville.
The only baserunner he allowed after the second inning came on an error in the fifth.
In six innings Beaudoin allowed only two runs (one earned) on two hits, a walk and eight strikeouts in the loss.
Neville shortstop Bershen Minninger made all three outs in the third inning that included a great snag in the hole and a throw from one knee to nail the runner.
In the fourth, the Spartans got on the board.
First baseman Joey Smith led off the inning with a single, stole second base and advanced to third on a passed ball.
Spartans catcher Cole Jackson then followed with an RBI single to plate Smith and cut the Tiger lead to 2-1.
But with a man on third and two outs, the Spartans attempted a squeeze play that failed thanks to a great, running throw by Tiger third baseman Evan Smart to get the runner.
The Tigers also had great work on the mound from starter Cole Clary who pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed only one earned run on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
Conner Wyly came on in relief to earn the save creating a double play in the sixth and striking out the side in the seventh.
“I cannot even begin to say how proud I am of my Salmen baseball team,” said coach Brian Babin.
“Yes, we came up short in the semis, but we were way ahead of where the world thought we would be.
It shows what hard work, belief, and dedication to a team concept can do. This year I learned what the true definition of team means.
I saw kids do little things that turned into huge things. I saw bench players picking up starters and they respected that guy. And I saw average players do phenomenal things.
This was the hardest last speech I ever had to give, because I know they left everything on the field.”
“I also want to thank everyone–friends, family, faculty, coaching buddies, little league teams, and the support you showed my guys throughout this miracle run was amazing!