No. 8 Loranger scored a combined five runs in the first two innings en route to an 8-2 victory against No. 9 Berwick in the regional round of the Class 3A playoffs in Loranger.
Loranger (26-4) scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning, and after Berwick (23-9) plated a single run in the top of the second to cut the deficit to 3-1, Loranger responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame for a 5-1 lead.
Loranger added a run in the fourth and two in the sixth for an 8-1 advantage before Berwick closed the scoring with a single run in the top of the seventh.
Of the eight runs the Panthers surrendered, six were unearned.
“Like I told the kids after the game, that one game knocked us out of the playoffs but that game didn’t dictate how our season went,” Berwick coach Mike Thomas said. “I thought the kids played extremely hard, but I didn’t think we played smart. The effort was there. We had a few mistakes early, and we couldn’t overcome it.”
Besides costly errors, the Panthers also couldn’t get the timely hit when they needed it as Loranger pitcher Brennan Catalano limited the Panthers to six hits. The Panthers left 10 runners on base, too.
“He was good,” Thomas said. “He was OK, but it wasn’t like something we hadn’t seen before. It was one of those games where nothing went right for us.”
At the plate, Lee Rhodes and Nick Osburn each finished 1-for-2; Brooks Richard finished 1-for-3; and Nick Duthu and Trey Williams both finished 1-for-4.
On the mound, Duthu started the game for the Panthers but lasted just two innings. He surrendered five runs on three hits. He walked two, struck out two and hit a batter.
In relief, Reed Leonard tossed three innings and surrendered two runs on a hit. He walked five and struck out one.
Richard also pitched an inning and surrendered one run on two hits and hit a batter.
Tuesday’s loss concluded a season for the Panthers in which Berwick was decimated with injuries. The Panthers lost their left fielder, Logan Theriot; catcher, Ian Bergeron; shortstop and pitcher, Chris Charpentier (moved to first base) and one of their top starting pitchers, Brannon Melancon, throughout the season.
However, capable replacements stepped up to fill the voids and keep the Panthers on track.
“I’m very proud of these kids,” Thomas said. “They played hard all year long, and they stepped up and overcame some adversity. That just shows the character of this group.”
And despite the hardships they faced, Thomas said this year was one of the most enjoyable he and his staff have had leading the Panthers.
“It was a great group of kids,” Thomas said. “They play hard for you. They do everything you ask them to do. That makes coaching fun.”
With the win, Loranger will move on to the quarterfinals in which they will travel to No. 1 seed Parkview Baptist. Parkview defeated No. 16 Jennings, 13-2, in other regional round action.
Tuesday’s meeting between Berwick and Loranger was the fourth time in as many years the two have faced off. Loranger won the first two by 4-3 scores, while Berwick won the third matchup in 2011, 7-6.
The first three of those matchups were in Berwick.
Tuesday’s loss also meant the end of the careers of Berwick seniors Charpentier, Rhodes, Williams and Matt Skelton, a group that Thomas said is unlike some other groups in that they lettered all four years of high school and most started for four years.
“I enjoyed being around that group for four years,” Thomas said. “They are what Berwick baseball is all about. I hope some of the young guys learned what to do and what not to do … from the four seniors we had.”