DENHAM SPRINGS -- There are times in baseball when the beauty of a game can be found only in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes even those beholders have to work pretty hard to come up with something appealing.
Tuesday night when Denham Springs High and Live Oak clashed at North Park, there was no need for interpretation because anybody who beheld saw something special.
The Yellow Jackets prevailed 1-0 in a marvelous pitchers’ duel between Denham’s Cade Doughty and the Eagles’ Bailey Simoneaux in a battle of teams jockeying for positioning in the District 4-5A standings and 5A playoff seedings.
While it was slightly more masterpiece in the Jackets’ favor, it was hard to find a lot of fault in the way either team performed in their second meeting of the season.
Simoneaux allowed only 5 Denham hits (1 in the last 4 frames), while Doughty surrendered 7 to Live Oak (18-11, 3-3 district). Neither team committed an error, and the Yellow Jackets (17-9-1) were borderline spectacular with the leather, especially two plays late in the game.
Although there wasn’t a ton of offensive production, there were quality swings and at-bats throughout – the credit goes to Doughty and Simoneaux for clamping down when they needed to.
“This was just a great high school game for both teams,” DSHS coach Mark Carroll said. “It feels good for us because we got the ‘W,’ but both teams played hard, did a lot of things really well and played a great game.”
Where the Jackets emerged was their ability to break through with a chance early in the game while Live Oak scuffled.
Doughty cruised through the first 2 innings by getting the Eagles in order twice before Nick Cacioppo punched a leadoff single to start the 3rd frame. Lane Hutchinson’s bunt went right back to Doughty, who spun and nailed Cacioppo at second base for fielder’s choice and Live Oak’s chance fizzled when Simoneaux flew out to left and Ryan Morris rolled out to second base.
That inning and the 5th were the only times the Eagles put a leadoff man on base, which was big because it neutralized Live Oak’s small-ball approach.
“Every batter I focused on throwing a first-pitch strike,” Doughty said. “My fastball and curve ball were working, so I trying to spot up and keep them guessing.”
Denham got a base runner on in each of the first few innings, including Doughty with a base hit to start the 1st, but Simoneaux didn’t buckle.
In the 3rd, the Eagles’ lefthander got the first two batters without a hiccup before Doughty stepped in and rifled a single to center field on the first pitch he saw to give the Jackets a pulse. Dillon Boyle took a pitch and then drilled a line drive into the right-field corner to send the speedy Doughty dashing home for a 1-0 lead.
“In batting practice, he’s swinging better than he ever has,” Carroll said of Boyle. “He’s feeling really confident right now and he swung it well at the right time with the right guy on base.”
Which was an elusive notion all night long for the Eagles.
Live Oak got back-to-back singles from Garrett Barrilleaux and Gabe Schenk in the 4th inning, but the rally died when Nick Moreau -- who was just getting warmed up -- gobbled up a grounder at second base.
Cacioppo dropped a single to center field to open the 5th and Hutchinson whipped another hit to left field. Cody Crifasi pinch-hit for Simoneaux and executed a perfect bunt to move both runners up before Morris rammed what had the look of a two-run line-drive single toward center field.
Moreau decided otherwise when he roamed right, leapt and snared the ball on a line right behind second base. Hutchinson broke on contact and was nearly at third base, making for an easy inning-ending double play.
“We had a couple of opportunities to score and they made some great plays – not good plays, but great plays,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “As long as I’ve been around baseball, I have figured out that it’s hard to win if you don’t score. We had to scratch one out somehow and we didn’t get that done.”
That had a lot to do with Doughty.
The Eagles had the potential tying run on second base in the 6th inning after Preston Faulkner was hit by a pitch and Barrilleaux singled. But Doughty honed in and retired Schenk and Rhett Rosevear to snuff out the threat.
Hutchinson produced a one-out base hit in the 7th and Simoneaux pumped a troublesome fly ball to center field that Brent Huffman spun one way on, spun back the other way and tracked down right before he hit the ground.
DSHS shortstop Dawson Albin finished the night with another slick scoop-and-throw to gun down the speedy Morris to strand Hutchinson.
“The plays our defense made -- especially Nick Moreau and Brent Huffman -- helped us out a lot and that’s what we need to push through the rest of this part of the season,” Doughty said.
Both teams push ahead Thursday. The Eagles play host to Walker (13-11, 2-4) at 6:30 p.m., while Denham heads to Zachary (19-8, 5-0) for a 6:30 p.m. showdown.
DSHS 1, LIVE OAK 0
Live Oak 000 000 0 -- 0 7 0
DSHS 001 000 x -- 1 5 0
Bailey Simoneaux and Preston Faulkner; Cade Doughty and Braden Doughty. W -- Cade Doughty (1-2). L -- Simoneaux (5-2). 3B: DSHS -- Dillon Boyle. Records: Live Oak 18-11, 3-3 District 4-5A; DSHS 17-9-1, 3-3. Up next: DSHS at Zachary, 6:30 p.m. Thursday; Walker at Live Oak, 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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