Unperfect ending: No. 9 Delta Charter Storm drops title game, ends magical run

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 13, 2018

SULPHUR, La. — When the Delta Charter School baseball team took the field Saturday afternoon against the Merryville High School Panthers in the LHSAA Class 1A State Championship, some may have thought it was a matchup of two Cinderellas.

Delta Charter entered as the No. 9 seed, previously taking down topped-ranked LaSalle and No. 5 seed Kentwood to reach the title game. On the flip side, No. 11 Merryville defeated No. 2 seed Grand Lake to advance to the championship.

But as the story of Cinderella goes, only one person — in this case one team — can fit into the glass slipper. Unfortunately for the Storm, the shoe just didn’t fit Saturday.

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“You have a No. 9 seed and a No. 11 out there busting their butts for a state championship,” said Delta Charter coach Jarrett Hoffpauir. “You just never know what could happen. Today just wasn’t our day. We hit some balls and we hit some balls at people. (Merryville) made some great plays defensively and had great pitching. That’s a plus for them. They played better than us today. That’s baseball.”

The Storm’s magical run in the playoffs ended in a 6-3, seven-inning loss to the Panthers.

Although Hoffpauir gave praise to the way Merryville played, he said Delta Charter did not play its best game when it mattered most.

“It’s frustrating,” Hoffpauir said. “I knew it was going to be tough … I thought we would put more pressure on them and score more runs to be honest with you. We just shot our

selves in the foot there during a few innings.”

The Storm hurt itself at one moment when junior Freddie Mango was caught stealing home in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Delta Charter was down, 6-3. Trenton Miller — who was 2-for-2 at the time — was up to bat facing two outs. Instead of trying to allow Miller to try and get a hit, Mango attempted to steal home and was caught in a pickle.

Mango was on his knees and stood up from his slide, looking toward the left field fence in frustration.

While Hoffpauir was upset about his team not capitalizing on the day’s 12 hits, he was also not quite happy with his team’s pitching.

“I knew we were thin on pitching,” Hoffpauir said.

The Storm went through three pitchers — Chase Gillespie, Andrew Brown and Landon Davis — against the Panthers. Gillespie, Brown and Davis only combined to allow five hits. But, it was the walks and errors by the defense that allowed Merryville to build a lead that Delta Charter just couldn’t overcome.

As the Storm’s season came to an end, many players couldn’t help but think of the team’s magical run.

“It was bittersweet to get here,” said senior Drake Smith. “It’s been a great ride. For us to get this far, working this hard and to have this happen, it hurts really bad.”

Seniors such as Smith and Trenton Miller all played their last game in a Storm uniform Saturday, but as a young program, Delta Charter knows this won’t be the last time it contends for a state championship. However, it also knows it will miss the five seniors from this year’s team.

“We are losing some good guys,” Hoffpauir said. “Anytime you lose guys like Drake on the mound, it’s tough. We will only have two seniors next year, but we have a good eighth and ninth grade group coming up and I expect good things out of them.

“We have an up-and-coming school and baseball program … To get here is a feather in our cap.”

Overall, the Storm was proud to prove the doubters wrong this season.

“Nobody ever thought we would get this far,” Smith said. “I’m proud of this team. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”