The St. Thomas More Cougars gained sole possession of first place in District 5-4A on Wednesday night, after edging past the Teurlings Catholic Rebels 2-1 at Brother Ephrem Hebert Field.
It was a close game, from start to finish, with Teurlings leaving the bases loaded in the final frame.
“I’m really so proud of my team,” said St. Thomas More head coach Gary Perkins. “We put two pitchers on the mound (Grant Cox and Hogan Harris) who had been on the shelf for easily a month, and we didn’t have any idea how they would respond to a big pressure-filled ballgame, such as this one.
“I’m just so proud of those two guys for making the pitches when they had to,” Perkins said. “The defense played well too, but I am a little disappointed in the offense. There were three or four sacrifice bunts that we didn’t get down, and we didn’t do a very good job of hitting the ball to the opposite field, but overall, I’m pleased, and can feel the team getting a very big lift from this.”
“I’m proud of our effort tonight, and I thought our guys came out and did what they’ve been doing all year, and that’s come out and compete, and put some energy and effort into every pitch,” Teurlings Catholic coach Mike Thibodeaux said. “We had some opportunities, but just came up a little short.”
In a scoreless game in the bottom half of the third inning, St. Thomas More centerfielder Brennan Breaux tripled off the wall to leadoff the inning, before shortstop O’Neal Lochridge followed with a walk, setting the stage for catcher Christian Leonard, who drove home both with a single, giving the Cougars a 2-0 lead.
Teurlings Catholic drew to within a run in the top half of he fourth inning, when first baseman Andre Stelly was hit by a pitch to begin the inning, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of catcher Austin Kirkpatrick, and then scored on a single by right fielder Jonathon Fontenot, cutting the STM lead to 2-1.
The Rebels threatened in the top half of the fifth, when second baseman Caleb Lasseigne crushed one-out double off the left-field wall. One batter later however, shortstop Hayden Cantrelle flew out to centerfield, to STM’s Breaux, who then threw a strike to third base, to gun down Lasseigne, who was attempting to tag.
Cox, who threw the first five innings for the Cougars, was relieved by Harris, who retired the side in order in the sixth, before the Rebels loaded the bases, courtesy of two walks and a hit batter in the seventh.
Down 3-1 in the count, Harris came back to strikeout Cantrelle, and preserve the win for St. Thomas More.
“That’s the thing that I love about both Cox and Hogan,” Perkins said. “A pressure situation like this, where they haven’t been on the mound in over a month, and they answered the call.”
Cox recorded the win, scattering four hits over five innings of work, while allowing only one run, with no walks and three strikeouts, while Harris picked-up the save, tossing two scoreless innings of relief.
“Our strong point this year was supposed to be pitching, and it still is,” Perkins said. “This just gives us a big lift.”
Josh Taylor was the hard luck loser for Teurlings Catholic, allowing only two runs and two walks, while fanning eight.
“He fell some guys early, as I think the adrenaline was kicking,” Thibodeaux said of Taylor. “But he settled in and really pitched a good game for us.”
At the plate, Leonard and Alex Hannie each collected two hits for STM, while Lasseigne had two hits for TCHS.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 13-8 overall and 4-0 in district, while the Rebels fell to 14-7 and 3-1, respectively.
“I love our guys, and love coaching this group,” Thibodeaux said. “They know they’re good enough to be a championship contender. But hats off to St. Thomas More, for doing what the had to do to win the ballgame tonight.”
“Having them, and us, in the same district, is going to help both teams,” Perkins said. “Playing one another just makes us both better, and that’s what we’re both do right now, and that’s get better.”