Wolf Pack clinch first-ever Southern States Athletic Conference Championship

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Loyola baseball

Wolf Pack clinched their first-ever Southern States Athletic Conference Championship Thursday, defeating Blue Mountain College twice at Segnette Field

WESTWEGO – The Loyola University New Orleans baseball program made history Thursday evening at Segnette Field after sweeping Blue Mountain in a doubleheader. For the first time ever, the 10th-ranked Wolf Pack won the Southern States Athletic Conference regular-season title, which is the first title of any kind since the 2002 Wolf Pack baseball team won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship.

Loyola started the day with a 5-2 win over the Toppers, then it put an exclamation point on the evening with a 13-3, run-rule win.

The historic achievement means Loyola will be the No. 1 seed at the SSAC Championship next week, playing its first game against the No. 8 seed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Mobile, Alabama. The Wolf Pack and Blue Mountain still have one game left in the regular season, though, as the two will meet back up at Segnette Field Friday at 2 p.m. for Senior Day.

GAME 1: #10 Loyola 5, Blue Mountain 2 (7)

The Toppers got things started quickly with a two-run home run in the opening frame, but the Wolf Pack scored five unanswered en route to the win. Allen Dennis and Peyton Lacoste began the bottom of the second with back-to-back no-out doubles, then an RBI groundout by Kason Cullins brought home Loyola’s first run. Luke LaCoste followed that up with a double, scoring Peyton Lacoste to tie the game 2-2.

Loyola took its first lead in the next inning, taking advantage of a leadoff walk by Gabriel Trastoy. Pinch-runner Brandon Duhon stole second to put a runner scoring position with no outs, and Michael Calamari’s base hit to right-center put the Pack up 3-2. In the fifth inning, Trastroy, again, got a rally going with a walk, this time coming with one out. Duhon, again running for Trastoy, stole second immediately and later scored off the bat of Dennis. Luke LaCoste picked up an RBI single two batters later to push Loyola’s advantage to 5-2.

Stephen Still got the win on the bump with his seven-inning performance. After allowing the two earned runs in the first, the freshman only allowed two more hits on his way to his fourth win of the season. Still ended the day with five strikeouts and walked just one throughout his outing.

GAME 2: #10 Loyola 13, Blue Mountain 3 (8)

The Wolf Pack came out of the gates red-hot in the second game of the doubleheader, scoring six runs in the first inning. Loyola used six hits and two errors by the Toppers’ defense to plate the runs, and it all started with consecutive one-out singles by Alexander and Calamari. Dennis drove in the first run with a fielder’s choice, then two more runs scored after BMC’s second error of the frame. Ross Selvaggi, Christopher Bohrer and Trastoy all had RBI singles on three straight at-bats to close out the first with a 6-0 lead.

After Blue Mountain plated two in the third, Loyola got the runs back in the bottom half of the inning, extending the advantage to 9-2. Bohrer’s sacrifice fly scored Cullins, and back-to-back hit-by-pitches with the bases loaded while Calamari and Dennis were at the plate scored two more runs.

Patrick Crifasi made it a 12-2 game with a three-run home run in the sixth inning, and after the Toppers scored once in the seventh, a Kason Cullins single brought home Duhon in the eighth inning to end the game early, 13-3.

On winning the regular season title:

“I’m just pleased with them, pleased to see the families happy and the guys excited about what they’ve accomplished. When you have a group of guys who go about it the right way, it’s fun to see them get rewarded for doing it right. It doesn’t always work out that way. I’m excited about the direction we’re heading as we continue to work to get better. Right now I just feel pleased.”

On Stephen Still’s Game 1 performance after giving up the first-inning home run:

We’ve been working with both of the freshmen who pitch on the weekend. Just getting them prepared for moments like that. Handling adversity, not getting overly emotional, not getting too high or too low, just make your pitchers. It doesn’t matter what happened on the last pitch, just move on and don’t let the emotion of the last pitch dictate the next pitch. Stephen is a high-energy guy and he’s competitive. To see him show composure like that, it’s what we’ve been working towards. I’m proud of him for doing that.”

On taking care of business in Game 2:

“It just speaks for itself. They’ve been doing it for weeks. It seems like every weekend has been a big weekend for us. We were coming from nowhere so we had to prove it every weekend. That took focus, that took maturity, that took pitch-to-pitch mentality, not thinking you’ve arrived, and not thinking you’re out of it. Just do your job, and they’ve done their job. They stuck to the things that made them successful as an individual, then we put it together as a group, and it’s been consistent. They’ve handled it with maturity, their approaches have been professional, and the results show it.”

On the message moving forward:

“Nothing new, just keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been preparing for every game. Every practice we prepare. ‘This is what it’s going to look like. This is what it’s going to be. This is what you’re going to experience.’ Nothing changes (moving forward). We just gotta keep doing what we do. Keep buying into ourselves as individuals and putting that together as a group. Win the next pitch. If we keep doing that, then at the end of the game we’ll see where we’re at. We can live with whatever it is, win or lose, because we go about our business the right way. We’re not going to worry about the result, we’re just going to stick with the process.”

Loyola claimed its first-ever SSAC regular-season championship with the two wins Thursday, and the first championship of any kind since the Wolf Pack joined the conference prior to the 2011 season. Loyola’s only championship came in 2002 when the team won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament.

Freshman Stephen Still tied a season-high with seven innings in Game 1 Thursday, pitching his first complete game of the year. He also pitched five strikeouts, giving him 49 on the season to lead the Wolf Pack in 2021.

Still and Brett Fisackerly each picked up their fourth wins of the season Thursday, and now four Wolf Pack pitchers have been credited with four wins this season, including Brenden Taravella and Matthew Champagne.

Rhyse Dee’s three strikeouts tied a season-high. Brenden Taravella struck out four batters, bringing his career number to 155. That’s seventh in Loyola history.

Allen Dennis collected three RBI between the two games. The team’s all-time RBI leader now has driven in 52 runs this season, which is the sixth-most in a season in Loyola history.

Dennis also hit a double in Game 1, giving him 38 for his career, which is tied for seventh-most in Loyola history.

Brandon Duhon stole two bases in Game 1. He’s had six games this year with multiple swiped bags, and has 22 total for the season, which is the eighth-most in a season in Wolf Pack history.

Payton Alexander scored a run in each game, and has reached base in 18 consecutive games. In just 44 games this season, Alexander has come across home plate 55 times. He’s now tied for second for the most runs scored in a season in Loyola history.

Alexander also moved up in the Wolf Pack record books for most runs scored in a career, as he’s now scored 117 times and sits in the eighth spot on the list.

Peyton Lacoste registered multi-hit games in both contests Thursday, leading Loyola with five hits between the two games.

Lacoste now has 16 multi-hit games this season, as he joins three other Wolf Pack players who have at least 15 such performances in 2021: Payton Alexander (18), Michael Calamari (16), and Allen Dennis (15).

You can keep up with the Pack by following Wolf Pack Athletics on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoyolaWolfPack, Twitter and Instagram @LoyolaWolfPack, and by checking out our website at LoyolaWolfPack.com.

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