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Twice as nice! Lutheran South repeats as TAPPS state baseball champs

Ted DunnamMay 16, 2019

CROSBY - Before many of Lutheran South Academy’s baseball fans were settled in their seats Wednesday, the Pioneers had all but wrapped up a second straight Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state championship.

Chad Allen’s two-run home run fueled a four-run first inning, and the Pioneers rode a 17-hit attack to an 11-1 victory in five innings over Fort Worth Christian in the Division II title game.

Lutheran South (31-6) received a complete-game performance from sophomore Luke Harrison, who was also the winning pitcher in a 7-3 decision against Bullard Brook Hill in last year’s title game.

Not to be omitted from the sterling performance was the Pioneer defense, which turned two double-plays as LSA stymied Fort Worth Christian at every turn.

“Getting off to that fast start, that gave us some extra incentive to keep pushing and to keep chomping at the bit, like we always say,” said senior catcher Allen.

The 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning also provided lefty Harrison with ample cushion.

“He’s usually a pretty relaxed kid to begin with,” Allen said, “but getting those four runs…he could just go out there, enjoy himself and just chunk the ball.”

The state title was the third in the last five years for the Pioneers, who also captured the state crown in 2015. That season, LSA won its final eight games and finished with a then school-record 27 wins.

This year’s squad’s 31 victories matched that of last year’s team.

Head coach Aaron Schneider, who has guided LSA to each of its three state championships since he took over the program in 2013, said this title is special in its own way.

“I told the guys on the bus on the way here that I began feeling last night that we were going to hit the ball,” Schneider said. “We hadn’t played our best game this year, and I think we saved it for today.

“This was by far our best game of the season. We hit the ball well, we pitched it well, and we turned a couple of double plays to help Luke.

“It’s enough pressure just being in a state championship game, but I think we applied even more with that first inning.”

It didn’t take long for the game-winning surge to unfold as LSA leadoff hitter Henry Hill was hit with the game’s first pitch. That brought up Allen and he promptly blasted a shot over the left-field wall.

If that quick 2-0 lead wasn’t enough of a stunner to the Cardinals, LSA’s Jared Chambers and Deundre Jones followed with singles to left field.

A wild pitch ensued and a sacrifice fly by Trhea Morse - the winning pitcher in the state semifinal - made it 3-0.

Pioneer Kaleb Hicks then reached on an error and Kevin Roebelen punched a single to right for a 4-0 cushion.

That ended the day on the mound for Cardinal starter Jack Barr, who yielded to senior Cade Johnson.

As for Harrison, he allowed runners to reach base in all five innings, but the LSA defense proved to be his best friend. It produced twin-killings in the first and third innings after which LSA led, 5-0.

The Pioneers took their 5-0 lead in the second after Hill reached base on an infield popup which was lost in the sun. A wild pitch moved him to second and Chambers punched a single to center to drive home Hill.

LSA then took most of the wind out of the Cardinals’ sail in the fourth when the Pioneers scored five times for a 10-0 lead.

Allen and Chambers began the inning with singles before Jones, a freshman, hammered a ball off the wall in right for a 6-0 cushion.

Morse followed with a single to center to make it 7-0, and a walk to Hicks loaded the bases.

Robelen then singled again, this time to center, to make it 8-0, and that prompted another pitching change.

One out later, LSA’s Sammy Sobotik delivered a sacrifice fly to center for a 9-0 score, and Hill followed with a single to left to make it 10-0.

LSA scored its final run in the fifth when Jones crushed a one-out double off the wall in center. He then came home on a throwing error for the 11-0 advantage.

Harrison seemed to lose a bit of focus in the fifth inning, issuing a walk, allowing two singles and hitting a batter, but eventually preserved the five-inning, run-rule victory.

He had to work for that after falling behind Cardinal hitter Cade Fontenot with a 3-0 count with the bases load. He then fired two strikes before recording the last out on a popup to second.

Allen said it was difficult to compare the two state titles.

“Last year was the first one I’ve ever won,” he said, “but back-to-back is another great feeling. It’s something you’ll always remember the rest of your life.”

Allen said playing talented teams and winning against Class 6A programs such as Pearland and Pasadena Dobie was only beneficial.

“That type preparation…we had seen the best by the time we got here,” he said. “We faced Stone Simmons from Kinkaid, and some of the best pitchers around here.

“We felt way more prepared this year because we had that strong challenge early in the season.”

Schneider couldn’t disagree with that assessment.

“To be the best, you have to play the best,” the LSA head coach said. “We’ve always said we’ll play whoever will let us play them for nothing more than just the opportunity to see the best competition.

“That’s what gets you ready. When we got to the state tournament, we felt confident.

“I’m so proud of these guys. I think the toughest thing in sports is to repeat when the target is on your back.

“Baseball is such a difficult sport to stay focused all the time, and these guys handled that challenge pretty well.”


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