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Terriers fall in 4A quarterfinals

Vandebilt Catholic's Kane Degruise (8) slides into home plate in Saturday's Class 4A quarterfinal game against Neville. (Photo by Keyon K. Jeff/Correspondent)

After a pair of comeback one-run wins got No. 19 Vandebilt Catholic to Saturday's Class 4A quarterfinal game against sixth-seeded Neville, the Terriers finally dug a hole too deep for them to emerge.

Down one with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Vandebilt placed runners at first and second base on a walk and a single by Cade Mathrene.

Momentum seemed to shift in the Terriers favor until Kane Degruise hit a grounder to Tigers first baseman Daniel Eskew for the final out and a 3-2 win for No. 6 Neville at Terrier Field.

Neville advances to the state semifinals in Sulphur to play No. 2 West Ouachita on Thursday at McMurry Park.

"These kids fought until the last out, the last pitch, the inning. You got to be proud of them," Terriers head coach Corey Sullivan said. "We were the underdogs. They were underdogs in the first game, the second game. We just came up a little bit short."

"We started our season with a tournament in Sulphur and they're going to finish back in Sulphur," Neville head coach Paul Guerrero said. "This is a big win for us. Vandebilt Catholic is as good a 19th seed as I've ever seen. I think they were mis-seeded big time."

Through the first four innings, both the starting pitchers hung tough while their defenses got them out of trouble to keep the game scoreless.

Neville (25-11 overall) had runners on second and third base in the fourth with one out when Terrier pitcher Kye Matherne (five hits, a walk, two hit batters in four and two-thirds innings) caught a knee-level line drive from Eskew and then induced a groundout to escape the inning.

Vandebilt (18-14) had the bases loaded with two outs in the second. Tigers pitcher Caleb Luffey (two strikeouts, five walks, two hits and a hit batter in four and one-third inning) forced a fielder's choice at second base to end the inning. In the fourth, the Terriers had runners in second and third with one; however, Luffey got a pop up to shallow centerfield and a groundout to end that threat.

"I think we had seven base runners in scoring position in the early innings. Against a good baseball team, you got to get it done," Sullivan said.

Neville emphatically broke the scoring drought in the fifth. With one on and two outs, Brian Barefoot (1-for-4) crushed a two-run homer over the 360-foot left-centerfield wall for a 2-0 Tigers lead.

"It was going to be who could get the big hit and get the run across when they needed to," Guerrero said. "I knew Barefoot was seeing the ball well. Fortunately for us, he had a good at-bat that changed the tide of the game."

Vandebilt had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the fifth. The only run to score was when Jared Bigler was hit by a pitch, plating Jacob LeCompte to cut the Terrier deficit 2-1.

"We had some pitches where if we were a little more disciplined at the plate maybe we could have gotten more out of it. But it just wasn't our day," Sullivan said.

Neville responded with an insurance run in the sixth as an RBI single by pinch hitter Alex Prince scored Spencer Brooks.

"(Alex) didn't have an at-bat in over a month, but he's been swinging it good in batting practice," Guerrero said. "I told him if you get an at-bat, get after it, and he did."

The Terriers pulled within one again in the bottom of the inning. A sacrifice fly from Kevin Guenoit plated Degruise. However, Vandebilt ran out miracles in the seventh inning.

Sullivan can take comfort in the tremendous playoff run and legacy left behind by his six seniors.

"We're going to be a young team next year, but these seniors set the expectations for us," he said. "They've accomplished a lot in the last four years: second round last year; third round this year; they won a Swampland championship. I'm proud of each and every one of them."

After the game, Sullivan's departing message to his team revolved around one word: loyalty.

"There were times this year I could have took them out, but I was loyal to them because I knew they were going to get the job done," he recalled. "I told them to be loyal to themselves, their families, their God and they're going to be successful no matter what they do."