Prep report for Friday, March 20 _lowres

Advocate photo by Buddy Delahoussaye- Catholic-Baton Rouge catcher Bo Branch gets ready to catch the ball and tag St. Thomas More's Mason Tucker on Friday night in Lafayette.

LAFAYETTE — Sophomore Ethan Hines had pitched six strong innings, and St. Thomas More coach Gary Perkins said he had no reservations sending Hines back out to face Catholic-Baton Rouge in the seventh.

“He pitched one heck of a ballgame,” Perkins said. “He got to 90 pitches, and maybe in hindsight we bring someone else in to start the seventh, but we didn’t.”

Hines got the first batter to ground out in the seventh, but an error by Will Bellamy allowed the runner to reach. After Hines allowed a single to Brian Fairbanks, Perkins pulled him for Drew Hughes.

The wheels began to rattle as Hughes balked to put the tying runs in scoring position, and the Bears offense exploded for seven runs. Catholic’s Nick Deranger came into pitch three innings of lights-out relief, and the Bears won 9-4.

“Throughout the game, they believed we would win and believed in each other,” Bears coach Brad Bass said. “When they get backed into a corner, they start to respond. They just move the line for the next guy. I’m real proud of them.”

The Bears scored seven runs in the top of the seventh inning on three hits — none bigger than two-RBI double from Josh Smith. Bass said his team was relentless in the pursuit of excellence.

“That is what we pride ourselves by,” Bass said. “These guys want to go compete at the highest level. We talk about the fact that the play doesn’t care who makes it and the hit doesn’t care who hits it. We just want to give ourselves an opportunity and these guys get it.”

Perkins said he was extremely proud of the fight in his team. He commended Hines on his pitching performance and said the mistakes in the field cost them a chance to win.

“We booted a few balls, and they got some clutch hits,” Perkins said. “That’s the way baseball is played. That’s a typical Catholic team. They aren’t going to quit.

“This is a tough loss, but it wasn’t because we pulled the pitcher. We make a couple errors that set up the table with one out. We could have been out of the inning even with Hines in there and with two outs, I provably leave him in.”

In relief for the Bears, Deranger threw three innings, allowed just one run and struck out six. Deranger struck out the side in the seventh and Bass said Deranger is starting to return to his old form.

“Nick was awesome,” Bass said. “It was back to the old Deranger that we know and love. He went in there and got the momentum back and closed the door.”

Bass said Friday’s win was a big one and will be a momentum-builder for the Bears season.

“This was a huge one because this was the next one,” Bass said. “When you can beat a St. Thomas More, it’s a nice win. All these games count right now and we want to test ourself against this caliber competition.”