Pine Prairie does it to Wolves again in Class B quarterfinals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

MONTEREY, La. &045; It was deja vu all over again in the Class B quarterfinals in Concordia Parish Saturday.

But instead of watching big brother Tim capture the win in the quarterfinals and ultimately leading Pine Prairie to the state title in 2001, Ben Rodriguez had the ball in his glove and befuddled Monterey hitters all night with his swooping slider.

Rodriguez, who was a freshman shortstop on the championship team that beat Doyle, struck out just five, but surrendered two hits and at one point retired 12 Wolves’ batters in a row in a 3-1 victory.

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&uot;It looks a lot like my fastball so I’m able to keep hitters off-balanced,&uot; said Rodriguez, who helped his own cause with a double and run scored in the sixth, of his off-speed selections. &uot;Once I get them thinking slider I can come inside to them with my heater.&uot;

Pine Prairie advances to the state semifinals to be played in Alexandria next Friday.

Elliot West, son of Panther head coach Quint West, broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth with and two-out single that plated a pair of runs.

Up to that point Monterey senior hurler Phillip Bryan, who pitched every inning in three postseason games, was marvelous.

Bryan had a couple of three-up and three-down innings early.

In Bryan’s first loss of the year he surrendered four hits and struck out nine batters.

&uot;They made plays when they had to and we didn’t &045; that’s the whole game in a nutshell,&uot; Monterey head coach Hank Zizzi said. &uot;I hate to see it come to an end like this, but today (Pine Prairie) outplayed us.&uot;

In its half of the fifth, Monterey got a one-out double from Ben Brallier to score pinch runner Shane Dunnigan all the way from first base.

But Pine Prairie must have sprinkled some gris-gris because the Wolves ran themselves out of the inning on a bizarre play.

With Brallier sitting on third, and still one out, Panther catcher Brice Campbell caught Layton Strebeck’s foul tip.

Believing that it was only a foul ball, thus dead, Brallier casually strolled toward home plate where Campbell slapped his mitt into the Monterey senior’s chest for the second out. A pitch later Strebeck struck out to end the inning.

&uot;This is a great feeling because no one thought we could be here,&uot; said Rodriguez, whose run in the sixth marked the final lighted bulbs on the scoreboard. &uot;We’re a young team and we just wanted to prove everybody wrong.&uot;

Quint West was skeptical of how his team would approach playing in such an important game in a hostile environment. His fears were calmed through Rodriguez’s previous big game experience.

Zizzi said the hardest factor in Saturday’s loss centered on the farewell to his four seniors &045; Bryan, Brallier, catcher A.J. Smith and Seth Paul.

Despite ending his high school career on a sour note, Smith gathered his teammates at the beaten-down pitching mound afterward and instructed them to keep their chins up.

&uot;I went 0 for 4 the last time we played these guys and I told them, ‘You’ll have another shot’ and make the most of it,&uot; Smith said. &uot;It was a fantastic four years. I’ve had a lot of good guys around me.&uot;