Pioneers rally past Seminoles

CROWLEY – The Crowley Pioneers have struggled through the first half of the 2010 District 7 East American Legion season and were winless entering Thursday’s home showdown with the Opelousas Seminoles.

So, after the Seminoles opened the game with four runs in the first inning and one in the second, the Pios’ misfortunes looked as if they would continue.

But the Pios responded midway through the game, pushing eight runs across before holding off a late rally to claim an 8-7 victory over the Seminoles.

“It has been a rough three weeks or so for us,” said Pioneers’ coach Steve Soper, whose team improved to 1-5 on the season with the victory. “It would have been easy, after the past couple weeks, to kind of fold it up after being down five runs. But the kids did a great job of chipping away every inning until, finally, it happened.”

The Pioneers overcame a rough start that saw starter Nick Gossen face 10 batters in the top of the first frame. The Seminoles plated four runs on three hits, three walks and two Pio errors.

“We had opportunities to get out of some jams early in the first inning, but we had a few mishaps that put us down,” said Soper. “It was really just us not capitalizing on the opportunities that we had.”

The Seminoles added another run in the second inning to take a 5-0 advantage when Tyler Stevens tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Caleb Roberie. Brandon Porche followed with a single to left before Gossen got Brannan Hargroder to hit into a double play to end the inning.

The Pios were able to cut into the lead in the fourth inning when Andre Thibodeaux and Alex Hoston recorded back-to-back one-out singles. Thibodeaux eventually scored from third base on a passed ball before Clint Faul followed with a two-out single to right field that plated two more runs and cut the lead to 5-3.

The Pios rallied again in the fifth inning, plating five runs on two hits and four walks.

Ross Holston, Thibodeaux and Matt Venable each drew walks to start the frame and J.P. Miers was issued a free pass with two outs to push across the first run. Austin Bordelon then drove in two runs with a single to right field and Faul followed with two more RBIs on a single to left to give the Pios an 8-5 lead.

“As it got deeper into the game, their (Opelousas) two pitchers kind of struggled to find the zone,” said Soper, whose team was issued eight walks on the night. “It’s a credit to our kids for being really patient at the plate, waiting for good pitches to hit and when we got them, we hit them. The most important thing was that when we got guys on, we were able to drive them in with something. Whether it be a walk, a hit or reaching base on an error, just any way of being able to produce runs in key spots.”

The Seminoles got within one run in the sixth when Darrin Hardy reached base on an error and scored on a triple by Eric Vincent. Ian Fontenot then hit a sacrifice fly to plate Vincent, cutting the lead to 8-7.

Alex Holston took the mound in relief of Gossen in the seventh inning and surrendered a one-out walk to James Fontenot. After Fontenot stole second and then third, Holston struck out Hardy and got Mike Barron to ground out to second base to end the game.

“Alex did a great job of not letting the pressure get to him with the base runners and everything,” said Soper of Holston who was credited with his first save of the summer. “He just focused on what he had to do about getting the next two guys out (after the walk) and he did that.”

Gossen earned the victory after giving up seven runs on eight hits and four walks. He struck out seven in six innings of work.

“Coming into the game, we had some guys that weren’t available to pitch so it was very important that Nick went deep into the game,” said Soper. “In the first inning, we kind of put some pressure on him early by not taking advantage of some ground balls. But he did a heck of a job of coming back, pounding the strike zone and letting his defense work.”

Faul led the Pioneers at the plate with two hits and four RBI.

“Both of Faul’s hits were with two outs and that was big,” said Soper. “He is a guy who has been coming in off the bench for us but we had an injury so he came in early and got two hits in two very big situations. He was really big for us.”

Thibodeaux also had two hits while Bordelon had a single and two RBI. Gossen and Alex Holston each had one hit and Miers had a RBI.

Derek Stelly paced the Seminoles with three hits and Vincent had two singles and two RBI. Stevens, Porche and Hargroder each had one hit and Fontenot finished with two RBI.

The Pioneers will be in action again Tuesday evening when they play host to the Opelousas Indians. That game is slated for 7 o’clock at Miller Stadium.

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