Millers rally past Oilers
EUNICE – Thanks to a sudden change to the American Legion Regional Tournament format which will be held later this week, the Crowley Millers found themselves fighting for their postseason lives Tuesday evening.
The regional, normally an eight-team tournament, was reduced to a six-team field on Monday, meaning that the Millers must place among the top two in their district to advance.
Trailing both Eunice and St. Landry Bank by one game in the standings, Crowley’s only hope of getting into the tournament was to defeat Oilers in order to play the St. Landry Bank Indians a day later where a victory would throw the league into a three-way tie for first place.
Despite a early five-run deficit, the Millers kept their postseason hopes alive, rallying past Eunice, 8-5.
The Millers, who trailed 5-0 after one inning, snapped a 5-5 tie with two out in the sixth inning when Connor Goss blasted a three-run home run.
“You’ve got to win at this point because if you lose, you go home,” said Millers’ coach Timmy Robichaux following the contest. “That’s what was good about being down five and being able to come back and kind of stay in the thick of things.”
Trailing 5-0 heading into the top of the fifth inning, Crowley’s offense, which was stagnant through the first four frames, finally came to life.
And it was the bottom of the lineup that got things started.
Mackay Mouton, making his first start of the summer in right field, led off with a single. Blake Thibodeaux followed with a hit to left field and Nick Hebert’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners up before a walk to leadoff man Nick Gossen loaded the bases.
Eunice hurler Nick Richard then struck out Mitch Corzine for the second out, but he gave up an RBI single to Goss and a three-run double to Paiton McBride.
With the lead trimmed to 5-4, Blaine Richard went down on strikes, but the pitch got past the catcher, allowing Richard to reach first base. Colby Istre made Eunice pay for the mistake with an RBI single to center to tie the game.
“The bottom of our lineup came up big tonight,” said Robichaux. “Mackay did a good job of getting us going. You know, everybody has to do their job in these games. Especially when you are down 5-0, you just have to try and do it one bat at a time.”
The backbreaker for the Oilers came one inning later.
Dillon Brown, who relieved Eunice starting pitcher Nick Richard in the sixth inning, hit Thibodeaux to start the frame, and then got Nick Hebert to fly out on a sacrifice bunt attempt that resulted in a double play.
With two outs, Brown then hit Gossen and Corzine to give the Millers new life.
With three hit batsmen under his belt, Brown fired the very next pitch straight down the middle of the plate and Goss got every bit of it, driving it over the left center field wall for what proved to be the eventual game winner.
“You know, it seems like we’ve struggled this season with timely hitting but Connor came up with a big, timely home run for us,” said Robichaux.
Goss, who has struggled offensively over the past few weeks, had two hits on the night and drove in four runs.
“Connor has come up big for us so many times at Notre Dame so it’s nothing unusual for him,” said Robichaux. “He always seems to come through and that’s the Connor that I’m used to seeing.”
Eunice made a late run, getting runners at first and second with not outs in the seventh inning.
However, Gossen got out of the potential jam with two ground outs before striking out John Ross Johnson to end the game.
Corzine, who started the game on the mound for the Millers, didn’t figure in the decision after giving up five runs on nine hits in three innings. But after the five-run first inning, he kept the Oilers off balance long enough for his offense to get going.
“We had some plays that could have been made in the inning that they scored those five but Mitch came back out and found a rhythm and went deep enough into the game to turn the ball over to Nick,” said Robichaux.
Gossen was credited with the victory after giving up three hits and three walks while striking out four in four innings.He took over in the fourth inning and got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam with back-to-back strikeouts.
“Nick did a great job coming in behind Mitch,” said Robichaux. “He got a little help on a double play in the fifth inning, but he was able to get on the mound, get the job done and close it out for us.”
Brown suffered the loss, giving up three runs on three hits and four walks in two innings.
Paiton McBride led the Millers at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance that included a double, a triple and three RBI. Istres singled and drove in one while Mouton, Thibodeaux and Hebert each had one hit.
Olivier, Bari, Johnson and Trent Vidrine each had two hits for the Oilers.
The Millers were scheduled to take on St. Landry Bank last night at Westminster but results of that game were not available at press time.
Should the Millers win that game, a coin flip would more than likely decide the team’s postseason fate. A loss would end the season.