Ben Caleb Malloy crept down the third-base line.
The Bayou Academy senior kept an eye on Heritage Academy catcher Carson Hollis as the pitch from Braden Davidson skittered past Hollis to the backstop. Hollis watched Malloy, too, before turning his back and chasing down the baseball.
At that moment, Malloy broke for home plate. He sprinted down the line, sliding into the dish safely as Davidson caught Hollis’ desperate toss and tried in vain to tag Malloy out.
Again, the Colts had caught the Patriots by surprise. And while it wasn’t the first time, it would be the last.
“I didn’t feel like we were going to be here at this point,” Heritage Academy coach Chris Ball said. “We thought we were still going to play on into the next month.”
Instead, the Patriots found themselves huddled in the left-field grass, where Ball did his best to thank his seniors and rally his underclassmen.
“You need to take that extra rep in the weight room or take that extra rep on the field to get better — so you won’t feel this feeling again,” Ball told them.
Across the diamond, forming a happy circle in right field, coach Dee Haynes’ Bayou team celebrated its upset victory. An air horn sounded repeatedly from behind the first-base dugout as Haynes and the Colts walked off the field.
For Haynes, it wasn’t the first time. A 1996 Heritage Academy graduate, he said his parents were in attendance as he led the visitors to victory on a home field that he admitted didn’t look quite the same as when he roamed it.
Still, though …
“It’s always good to come home for sure,” Haynes said. “You always want to make a good show when you’re at home.”
He and Bayou did, undoubtedly. Coming into Thursday with a 1-0 lead in the series, the Colts gave those who paid admission to Trip Carson Field their money’s worth when they dropped the first game of the day and Heritage Academy tied up the series.
The Patriots put up three runs in the first inning, four in the third and four more in the fourth in an 11-0 run-rule win in five innings. Hamilton transfer Caleb Hall pitched a complete-game shutout on just 60 pitches for Heritage Academy.
“He’s electric,” Ball said. “He’s a big-time arm and a big-time player in a big moment. He pitched well.”
Hall and Cole Ketchum both drove in three runs, and Carson Hollis added a pair of RBIs.
“We competed today at the plate,” Ball said. “I was very proud of how we swung the bats today.”
That sentiment held true in the second game, in which Heritage Academy still managed nine hits against Bayou pitching. But it was the Pats’ own staff that hurt them.
Starter Rhett Ketchum got only four outs, and Heritage Academy’s three relievers didn’t fare much better. The Patriots ceded only six hits but also allowed 11 free passes, putting traffic on the base paths all evening.
“Eleven walks in a game, you’re really not going to be on the winning side of that,” Ball said. “That was tough to overcome.”
The Patriots fell behind when Jack Cartwright’s single gave Bayou a 3-0 first-inning lead and got within a run twice but never came closer. Up 7-4 in the sixth, the Colts made Heritage Academy pay with four straight two-out runs on a pair of singles, the wild pitch that plated Malloy and a subsequent error.
“I thought at the plate we did really well, especially with two strikes,” Haynes said. “In this series we found ways to get big hits maybe that we hadn’t gotten earlier in the year.”
But even with a seven-run lead, Haynes was nervous. He fidgeted in the dugout as the Pats loaded the bases, scored on a walk and brought slugger Aaron Downs to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. After a wild pitch brought home the inning’s second run, though, Larson Ingram got Downs to chase a pitch in the dirt for a big strike three.
Haynes praised the performance of a pitching staff lacking the high-end velocity of pitchers like Hall and Cole Ketchum, an Ole Miss commit.
“We don’t have the strongest arms on the mound, but we compete well,” he said.
It was Ketchum whom the Colts touched up Tuesday in Cleveland, putting the screws to the Pats with a massive 10-0 win.
“You’ve gotta win at your home, especially when you’ve got to play two away,” Haynes said. “Honestly, I think we may have surprised them a little bit. I don’t think that they really expected us to come out and hit, especially against an arm as talented as Ketchum, that first game.”
It left the Patriots in need of two straight wins Thursday to keep their season alive. They got one, but the other proved elusive.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” Haynes said. “You get blown out in one game, and then you’re able to come back and win the third. I’m super pleased at the way we bounced back after taking a pretty rough loss in the first game.”
His Colts will face a good-hitting Magnolia Heights team next week, while Heritage Academy is left picking up the pieces of a promising season. That includes the Patriots seniors set to graduate in a few short weeks.
Well after the final out, the trio of seniors who appeared in Thursday’s games — Downs, Reed Brewer and Sammy Hannon — came back on the field. They wanted one more picture with Ball behind the third-base bag, just one more memory before leaving the field for the final time.
“They have lasting memories and the immeasurables that you can’t replace,” Ball said. “Great kids will always give you 100 percent, and that’s what they are.”