LSUA runs out of gas in conference tournament championship game

STERLINGTON — Sixth-seeded Houston-Victoria rode away with a 12-2 victory over LSU Alexandria on Tuesday to claim the 2023 Red River Athletic Conference baseball tournament title.

Going 4-0 to win their first RRAC baseball tournament, the Jaguars earned an automatic qualification in the NAIA baseball world series.

The LSUA Generals placed two players on the All-Tournament team: first baseman Blaise Foote, third baseman Zach Mengarelli. Two Louisiana Christian Wildcats also made the team: designated hitter Braxton Cooksey and pitcher Cy Fontenot.

The champions made a shocking run to the title. Over the five days of the RRAC event, UHV scored victories over each of the top four seeded teams. During the regular season, the Jaguars were 3-9 against that group. Two of the tournament wins were by 10 runs or more and two were by a one-run margin. The surprising result also caps the first season for rookie head coach Jonathan Stavinoha.

In the championship game, UHV took control early and didn’t let go. The Jaguars loaded the bases in the first inning and catcher Haldemel Perez hammered a home run for a quick 4-0 lead. They added a run in the third inning then received an RBI-triple from Raul Lopez and a run-scoring double from Ty Williams for a 7-0 advantage.

The Generals picked up a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning, when Julien Kleibert singled in a run and scored on a passed ball. UHV went to work again in the bottom half of the frame. The Jaguars scored three more times with Williams crossing the plate on a wild pitch for a 10-2 edge. The game ended with a walk-off single from Zach Lee to stop the game on run rule in the seventh inning.

LSUA coach Kody Gautreaux was proud of his team’s charge to the championship round. The Generals won three elimination-round games in 24 hours to reach the final round.

LSUA won the tournament last year and had a chance to repeat as champions, but battling through the elimination round left the Generals short-armed.

“We were down to our last couple pitchers and we knew today, some things were going to have to fall our way – and they didn’t,” he told Alexandria’s KALB TV. “We hit some balls hard right at people. Credit to UHV, they came out and took care of business.

“We’ve been in that spot before. It was a special run, but sometimes you come up short,” said Gautreaux, “and that’s OK.”

The Generals have slim hopes of receiving an at-large bid to the NAIA Tournament.

Photo:  Courtesy LSUA Athletics