Let the arguments begin. The 2018 team stated it’s case as, perhaps, the best team in the history of the program after wrapping up the Division I state championship Saturday afternoon at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Fittingly, the player who struck the biggest offensive blow of the game, John Thomas Curtis IV (better known as “Jay”), is the only player in school history to start on 3 state championship baseball teams. That blow came in the bottom of the sixth with the score tied at one as Jay stepped to the plate for his 428th at bat in a varsity uniform and, perhaps, his final at bat in a Patriot uniform. As the pitch approached the plate, a curveball, Jay timed his swing just right and put a good swing on it. Off the bat, it seemed too high. A gust of breeze blowing from the south (perhaps a small gift from his great grandfather, Mr. John Thomas Curtis, Sr. in Heaven?) kept the backspinning ball farther and farther until the St. Paul’s outfielder ran out of room and the ball cleared the fence. The crowd roared, the team emptied the bench and the coaches jumped and cheered as Jay rounded the bases to give the Patriots a 2-1 lead. That slim one run lead, it seemed, would be plenty considering pitcher Will Ripoll’s dominant day on the mound and the Patriot’s impenetrable defense.
Speaking of Ripoll’s day on the mound, which garnered player of the game honors, he was flat out dominant. He struck out 8 of the first 9 he faced and 13 total in the game. The Wolves only run on the game came with a leadoff double in the fifth inning. A wild pitch moved the runner to third after a line out to right field. Ripoll then struck out the next batter. After getting in a two strike count, another wild pitch plated the tying run. The next pitch resulted in a strike out, but the Wolves were able to tie the game at 1.
The Patriots scored their run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Cade Beloso led off with a base hit. Jay then drew a walk and Ripoll bunted safely as the Wolf pitcher dove to try to catch the bunt in the air, but was unsuccessful in doing so and the Patriots had the bases loaded. With the infield in, Logan Stevens hit a hard ground ball right at the second base and the Beloso was forced out at home for the first out. Dax Ford then hit a chopper up the middle to plate courtesy runner Shane Goins from third for the first run of the game.
As usual, the defense was sparkling when Ripoll allowed balls to be put in play. Third baseman Ian Landreneau, Second baseman Jordin Labruzza and shortstop Brandon Davis gobbled up ground balls and threw perfectly to first baseman Cade Beloso. Outfielders Hunter Bufkin, Logan Stevens and Collin Guggenheim tracked down balls in the outfield. Jay Curtis also played brilliantly behind the plate.
The Wolves did not go away quietly in the top of the 7th. A leadoff double put the tying run on second with no one out. A failed bunt attempt gave the Patriots an out. Then, Ripoll got another strike out for the second out. The last pitch thrown was chopped up the middle and had trouble written all over it. However, just like he’s done all season long Jordin Labruzza got to the ground ball quickly and threw a strike to Beloso at first base for the final out. Let the celebration commence! A great cap to a fantastic season. The Patriots went 27-2 against teams from in state and 3-2 versus teams from out of state, including a 2-2, 4th place finish, in the prestigious National High School Invitational in Cary, North Carolina, for a total record of 30-4.
The end of the season means the end of careers for 12 Patriot players. They are:
#1 Brandon Davis
#3 Hunter Bufkin
#7 Ian Landreneau
#8 Ernest Jones
#9 Jordin Labruzza
#11 Corey Vidrine
#12 Landon Gambill
#16 Cade Beloso
#20 Will Ripoll
#22 Logan Stevens
#24 Jay Curtis
and Ben Corcoran, who was injured.
The Patriot baseball coaches, staff and administration want to thank all of the players, parents, family and supporters for the tremendous job they’ve done this season and in past seasons. We truly appreciate all that you’ve done and are proud to have you as a part in the Curtis family. Continued blessings and success to everyone. Thank you for a great season! We truly hope our mission of Building Champions for Life was fulfilled!