Delta Charter advances to title game, Storm takes down No. 5 Kentwood in semifinals

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2018

SULPHUR, La. — For the first time in school history, the Delta Charter School baseball team will be playing in the last game of the season.

On Thursday afternoon, the Storm captured a state championship berth after defeating the Kentwood High School Kangaroos, 5-3 in seven innings in the LHSAA Class 1A state semifinals.

While every Delta Charter coach, player and fan was ecstatic afterward, the realization hadn’t hit them yet.

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“The moment really hasn’t completely set in yet,” said Delta Charter coach Jarrett Hoffpauir. “Obviously, your biggest goal to get down to Sulphur and play for a state championship. We beat a really good team today and we are excited for Saturday.

“This is huge for our program. This is also our second year eligible to make the playoffs. Last year, we got bounced in the quarterfinals by LaSalle. Now, to be able to play in a state championship this year, it’s remarkable.”

Against the Kangaroos, the Storm jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. However, Kentwood would respond an inning later with a run of its own to tie the game up 1-1 after two.

After two more scoreless innings, Delta Charter was able to break the tie and regain the lead in the top of the fifth. But in the bottom of the fifth, the Kangaroos jumped out in front for the first time all game after scoring two runs to go up 3-2.

Losing the command of the contest near the end of the game, made the Storm a tad bit uneasy.

“When you are down late in the game, nerves tend to pick up a bit,” Hoffpauir said.

Yet, Delta Charter did not waver as it went on to retake the lead in the sixth inning by scoring two runs — making the contest 4-3. They then added an insurance run in the seventh.

“Our kids have been playing with the mindset of being focused on one inning at time,” Hoffpauir said. “That is something we have talked about a lot. And today, they played with that mentality as we regained the lead in the sixth by scoring those two runs and adding another in the seventh.”

While guys such as Trey Poole, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, and Chase Gillespie, who ended 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored, helped power the Storm past the Kangaroos, Hoffpauir was adamant that pitcher Drake Smith was one of the  main reasons why Delta Charter is going to play for a state championship.

Smith pitched all seven innings against Kentwood while striking out six batters and only allowing five hits. The senior right-hander also pitched all seven innings in Delta Charter’s 9-2 upset over No. 1 seed LaSalle last week.

“He has been outstanding — especially in the second half of the season,” Hoffpauir said. “We jumped on his back and asked him to be that leader. He has accepted that challenge as you can see. He has come up big for us in our two biggest games of the year. He is one of the main reasons why we are playing for a state title.”

Since Sulphur is more than three hours away from Ferriday, the Storm will stay the night Thursday and Friday.

In the state championship, Delta Charter will take on the No. 11 seed Merryville High School at 2 p.m. Saturday — which upset the No. 2 seed Grand Lake High School, 8-0 Thursday.

And even though the Storm were all smiles after its win, once the players take the field on Friday for practice and Saturday for the title, it will be time to get focused.

“(The players) are excited,” Hoffpauir said. “They are all smiles. However, they understand we are down here for business.

“We will approach the game with the motto we have been playing with lately: No redos. This time of year, you can’t be wishing you can have that at bat, pitch or hit back. You have to put your best foot forward. Come Saturday, I expect our players to do so.”