WCCA advances in playoffs

Published 3:20 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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HAYNESVILLE, La. — There would no need for a third and deciding game between Wilkinson County Christian Academy and Claiborne Academy in this best-of-three series in the 2024 MAIS Class 2A South State Playoffs.

That’s because WCCA did what head coach Kyle White said he expected from his players after a series-clinching 9-6 win at home in Game 2 last Friday afternoon over Riverdale Academy in the first round — play better as a team and not make the unforced errors that kept Riverdale in that game.

Not only did the Rams clean up their act defensively, but Jacob Sessions and Tucker Freeman each pitched complete-game, three-hit shutouts as the District 3-2A No. 2 upset the District 4-2A No. 1 seed Claiborne Academy Rebels on the road 13-0 in six innings in Game 1 and 5-0 in Game 2.

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In the opener, Sessions kept Claiborne Academy hitters frustrated from start to finish. He went all six innings, striking out four batters and walking just one batter while hitting two batters. The defense behind him committed just one error.

“We got a superb outing from Jacob. He threw a bunch of strikes and let the defense work,” White said. “As a team, we came out and did what we needed to do to be successful.”

WCCA was only up 2-0 after three innings of play before the Rams’ bats finally came through in innings four through six. The Rams plated two runs in the top of the fourth inning and three runs in the top of the fifth before putting the game out of reach with a six-run barrage in the top of the sixth.

The Rams finished with 15 total base hits. They were led by Carter Graham, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs batted in, and Freeman, who was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. They also took advantage of two Claiborne Academy errors.

Gavin Davis went 2-for-3 with one RBI and one run scored while Easton Buteaux was 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored and Wesley Sanchez went 2-for-5 with one run scored.

“At the plate, we continued to chip away at their starter and eventually we broke through with some bigger innings,” White said. “Anytime you have that kind of outing and have five guys with multi-hit games, it’s a good night. We challenged the guys this week and they answered the call.”

In Game 2, Freeman went all seven innings and continued to pound the strike zone, throwing 63 of his 95 pitches for strikes. He ended up striking out 11 batters, six of them looking, walked none, and hit one batter. WCCA continued its stellar defensive play against the Rebels by committing no errors.

“Matching the outing from Jacob in Game 1 was going to be tough, but Tucker lived up to it. We knew what he was capable of, but the last couple of outings have been a battle for him. Tonight (Tuesday night), he got back on track,” White said. “Lots of strikes and good defense kept us rolling.”

But unlike Game 1, the Rams struggled against the Rebels’ starting pitcher in Game 2. WCCA scored one run in the top of the first inning, but didn’t score again until the top of the fourth when the Rams plated one run for a 2-0 lead. They gave Freeman some much-needed run support with two runs in the top of the sixth inning and added one run in the top of the seventh.

“Their starter kept us off balance and mixed pitches well. It was one of those games where it seemed like everything you hit went right at someone or they would catch a break and get out of some tough situations when they needed to,” White said.

And while WCCA had 10 total base hits in the series-clinching win, not one of them went for extra bases. Sessions led the way by going 2-for-3 with one RBI and two runs scored while Charles Grezaffi also went 2-for-3. Buteaux was 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored.

“Again, it was chip away and trust your guy on the mound. The guys again answered the call and played themselves into another week of baseball,” White said.

WCCA (overall record not available) will take on the winner of the other Class 2A South State Semifinals series between District 4-2A No. 2 seed Briarfield Academy and District 3-1A No. 1 seed Tallulah Academy next week in the Class 2A South State Championship series, which will use a 1-1-1 format. The Raiders from Lake Providence, La. defeated the Trojans 11-5 in Game 1 on Tuesday afternoon to take a 1-0 series lead.