Tors’ Stutes visualizes walk-off victory

Sulphur’s Haydn Stutes (3), left, celebrates after hitting a walkout single during their first round playoff game at McMurry Park in Sulphur, La., Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick HickmanRickHickmanPhotographer
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{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>Sulphur </strong></span><span class="s1"><strong>6, </strong></span><span class="s1"><strong>Airline </strong></span><span class="s1"><strong>5 in </strong></span><strong>8 innings</strong></p>” id=”87e87cd8-c197-4f2f-8a90-d50782a02af2″ style-type=”fact” title=”Class 5A Playoffs | Bi-district Round” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

SULPHUR — Hadyn Stutes’ RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning enabled Sulphur beat Airline 6-5 Tuesday in a Class 5A bi-district playoff game.

The sixth-seeded Tors almost became the fourth team from District 3-5A — and the second in the top 10 — to be knocked out of the playoffs. No. 3 Acadiana, No. 11 New Iberia and No. 17 Comeaux lost on Tuesday.

With one out and one on, Airline elected to intentionally walk Nick Vallette to set up a potential double play. Airline’s Jerry Crouch struck out next batter but hit Devon Lebrun with a pitch to load the bases, bringing Stutes to the plate.

The senior third baseman has been the Tors’ power hitter all year with 19 extra-base hits, but he knew his job was simple: get the ball through the infield. And he needed one pitch, sending a fast rolling grounder up the middle to bring home Ben Broussard to win the game.

“I had the confidence that I would get the big hit when it mattered,” Stutes said. “That is what we preach about all the time — getting the big hit.

“When I came on deck, I was just visualizing getting up to the plate, getting that big hit and winning the game for us. I was just trying to stay relaxed.”

Stutes finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Sulphur head coach Sam Moore said he wasn’t worried when the Vikings tied the score at 5-5 in the top of the seventh on Bryson Connell’s RBI single and Chris Hayes’ ground out.

“We are a real patient bunch,” Moore said. “We keep everything under control and there was no panic. 

“We knew we had some hitters coming up. I wasn’t happy that (Airline) tied it up, but we didn’t feel like we were in a pickle yet. We just had to do what we do. It was just a matter of time before we broke it loose.”

Moore knew the Tors (26-9) would be in for a battle after splitting a pair of regular-season games with the No. 27 Vikings (14-20).

“It is always good to get a win, but we knew that Airline was going to be a challenge,” Moore said. “Airline has been playing some good baseball right now and their big hitter came back. We showed some resiliency. I am real proud of this bunch they are not quitters.”

Sulphur moved on to host No. 22 Covington, which beat NISH 4-3, in a best-of-three regional series starting on Friday.

Airline took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but the Tors came back with four runs in the bottom of the second using any way they could. Connor Cooke scored on Josh Barrilleaux bunt and Broussard scored on a Devon Lebrun ground out for a 2-1 lead. Courtesy runner Jake Barrilleaux scored on a wild pitch and Stutes crossed the plate a pair of errors on the same play.

Hayden Travinski, an LSU commitment, was the Vikings’ big hitter, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI.

Will Dion improved to 6-3 after relieving starting Chance Stone to start the fourth inning. Dion allowed two runs — one earned — on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks in five innings.

Sulphur 6, Airline 5 in 8 innings

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