LAFAYETTE — St. Thomas More had problems leaving Cougars on the base paths in Friday’s playoff game.
No. 2 seed STM stranded a dozen runners against No. 7 Neville in the opening game of the Class 4A quarterfinal playoff series. That statistic would hinder most team’s chances of pulling out victory, but the defending state champions overcame it as the team rolled to an 8-1 victory.
The second game of the best-of-three series is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at STM. If needed, Game 3 will take start at 4 p.m.
“The win was big,” STM coach Gary Perkins said. “We scored eight runs, but they walked in some of those. We didn’t have a great offensive game, but it is better to be 1-0 than 0-1.”
Neville starting pitcher Cole Marsh struggled with his consistency right from the start of the game as he plunked STM’s Brandon Romero, who later scored on a pass ball. Marsh walked two batters and hit two more in the first inning.
Neville (23-12) tied the game in the second as Willie Ward drew a walk and later scored on a wild pitch but that run was one of the few blemishes STM ace Hogan Harris gave up. The University of Louisiana-Lafayette signee struck out 13 while giving up two hits and one run.
“As the game went on, (Harris) got stronger,” Perkins said. “You see what he can do at the end when he struck out the last three he faced.”
STM seized control of the game in the bottom of the second inning.
With one out, the Cougars nine-hole hitter Will Bellamy blasted a solo home run over the left field wall. Two batters later, Brennan Breaux reached on a walk and scored on a double into the left field corner by O’Neil Lochridge.
STM (27-8) tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth as Bellamy drew a walk and scored on a wild pitch. STM forced Marsh off the mound in the sixth as he walked the first two batters as the Cougars scored four more runs.
Marsh got the loss after giving up six runs on four hits and 10 walks while throwing 118 pitches.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we had pounded Hogan off the mound,” Neville coach Paul Guerriero said. “We gave them that many free runners and we were terrible on the mound today.”
STM enters Saturday’s game one win away from clinching a berth in the state semifinals for the fourth straight season. Perkins said he hopes his team will come out relaxed and prepared to wrap up a semifinal berth.
“We should come out loose (Saturday),” Perkins said. “Hopefully we will have good showing in the first game.”