St. Thomas More baseball coach Gary Perkins said his team is no longer green.
“We are 30 games in,” Perkins said. “They are no longer 10th-graders or first-year players. They are seasoned veterans.”
After losing seven seniors from last year’s state championship squad, STM started the season sluggishly, entering district play one game under .500. The Cougars turned it around by winning the District 5-4A title. They are riding a 19-game winning streak and looking to advance to the Class 4A semifinals for the fourth straight year.
No. 2 St. Thomas More (26-8) hosts No. 7 Neville (23-11) at 6 p.m. Friday in Game 1 of the best-of-three series. Louisiana-Lafayette signee Hogan Harris is scheduled to take the mound for the Cougars on Friday.
Most of this year’s team saw barely any playing time during last year’s title run, having been regulated to the junior varsity or freshman teams. Even though most of the kids watched the senior-laden team hoist the state title trophy at McMurray Park in Sulphur, the team is well aware of how high the expectations are for the Cougars.
“When you are successful for a while the kids know the standard,” Perkins said. “They don’t want to be the group that let’s everybody down.”
STM’s bats have not let them down this postseason. The Cougars powerful lineup of O’Neal Lochridge, Brandon Romero and Brennan Breaux has lit up opposing pitchers as STM has scored 35 runs in three games.
STM will look to continue that performance against Neville, the team it defeated in last year’s title game 13-0. Neville, though, has yet to drop a game as well this postseason and is coming off a series sweep of Grant. Perkins said he expects the series to be one of the most entertaining of the weekend.
“I think it will be pretty evenly matched game,” Perkins said. “They seem to be a very well-balanced team. There is going to be a really good team that is going to lose this weekend.”