LSU signees propel John Curtis to easy Game 1 win over Byrd
METAIRIE – Top seed and defending Division I state champion John Curtis Christian had not played a real game since April 18, a real concern for any coach about his about the possibility of being rusty.
Whatever rust may have existed was knocked off quickly Thursday at Mike Miley Stadium.
A pair of LSU signees saw to that in a convincing 12-1 victory over eighth seed Byrd in a game shortened to four and a half innings by the Mercy rule in the opening game of the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Cade Beloso went 3-for-3 with a home run, double, single and four RBI while Will Ripoll pitched a two-hitter, striking out six, using 89 pitches. Beloso reached base in all five plate appearances as he was hit by pitches twice.
“Being off for two weeks, I think it really gave us a chance to focus on what we’re doing wrong and really just improve as a team, kind of refreshing our legs a little bit and kind of come out as a group and focus on the task at hand,” Beloso said. “I think the two weeks was really good for us. I just saw good pitches tonight and tried to put good swings on them but I credit my teammates in front of me for getting on (base).”
Ripoll was not sharp, lacking the kind of command he usually exhibits. He walked five, had four wild pitches and hit two batters.
“It makes it a lot easier when the team scores runs for us,” Ripoll said. “Without putting up those runs, I probably could have blown the game because I honestly couldn’t locate. I only gave up two hits but still, it wasn’t my best night. It was very important to jump on top of them. We’ve always got to put pressure on them. We want to come out here and finish it in two (games) and not put any pressure on ourselves.”
Byrd pitching struggled from the start, hitting six Curtis batters and uncorking three wild pitches.
The win was the ninth straight for the Patriots (28-4).
“We really swung the bats well tonight which is what we needed offensively early,” Patriots head coach Jeff Curtis said. “You could tell the layoff hurt Will a little bit. He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been in the past. He couldn’t get his breaking ball over for strikes. He gutted it out through five innings and did a nice job and gave us the win and that’s all you need right now.”
Curtis was not surprised to see Beloso hammer the ball.
“That’s Cade being Cade,” Curtis said. “He hit that one (home run) a mile and he comes back and gets another couple of hits and gets hit by a pitch and gets the inning started. Jay (Curtis) comes behind him and hits a double. I’m really proud of the way our lineup hit top to bottom tonight.”
The Patriots wasted no time jumping on top in the bottom of the first. With one out, Jordan Labruzza lined a single to left before LSU signee Cade Beloso belted a two-run home run to right field his 12th of the season, to make it 2-0.
Byrd (16-22) got on the board in the top of the third inning as Matthew Randall was hit by a pitch by LSU signee Will Ripoll. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Harrison Kammer and scored on a two-out, RBI single to center by Charlie Barham to cut the deficit to 2-1.
John Curtis then put up a big five-run inning in the bottom of the third, battering Byrd starter Sawyer Lacoste.
Beloso was hit by a pitch, Jay Curtis doubled him to third and Ripoll was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Tulane signee Logan Stevens painted the chalk with a two-run double down the right field line to make it 4-1, Hunter Bufkin drilled a two-run single and it was 6-1 and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signee Ian Landreneau had an RBI single to make it 7-1.
Beloso delivered an RBI single to make it 8-1 and a second run scored on an error and it was 9-1. Ripoll made it 10-1 with an RBI double to left, knocking out Lacoste. Evan Smith came on in relief and escaped further damage.
The Patriots put the finishing touches on the convincing victory in the bottom of the fourth inning as Collin Guggenheim scored on a wild pitch to make it 11-1 before Beloso completed his brilliant evening with an RBI double to make it 12-1.
The Yellow Jackets pushed across a run in the top of the fifth on a single by Blaine Hardy, a throwing error and a wild pitch to account for the final score. Charlie Barham had the only other hit for the Yellow Jackets, a third inning single, and he stole a base.
Lacoste took the loss, going two and two-thirds innings, allowing 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits. He walked one, struck out two and hit five batters. Smith went two innings, allowing three runs on two hits. Cole Joyner pitched the final third of an inning for Byrd.
Every hitter in the Curtis lineup had at least one hit except for Collin Guggenheim, who was hit by a pitch, had a sacrifice bunt and scored after reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Game two is set for 4 p.m. Friday with game three, if necessary, to follow at Mike Miley Stadium.
A senior-laden team, the Patriots are determined to repeat as champions.
“It’s what we’ve been working for since we won it last year,” Beloso said. “Playing with your brothers, there’s nothing better, I love every single guy on this team. I think that’s what makes us so great is our chemistry. We’re going to get there. There’s no doubt about it.”
Byrd 001 01 2 2 2, 6 LOB
JCC 208 2x 12 12 1, 6 LOB
WP—Will Ripoll (9-0)
Time of Game: 2:00
SB—Charlie Barham, Corey Vidrine, Hunter Bufkin
2B—Jay Curtis, Will Ripoll, Logan Stevens
HR—Cade Beloso (12)
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…