SULPHUR — About nine games into the season, St. Thomas Aquinas baseball coach Barrett Morgan stopped the team bus and told his players he thought they had all the ingredients needed to win a state title.
Pronouncements like Morgan’s can cut like a knife and doom a team’s chances.
Instead, the top-seeded Falcons used razor-sharp precision to claim a 3-1 victory over No. 2 St. Charles Catholic in the Class 2A title game Saturday at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state baseball tournament.
“The No. 1 thing you have to have is the right core group of guys,” Morgan said. “We have some unbelievable players, unbelievable bench players and coaches. This is a great moment.”
The pitching of Alex Egan and a two-run triple by Champ Artigues were the key components that gave STA (32-3) its first state title in baseball.
Egan allowed just four hits and struck out eight in the game played at McMurry Park. The sophomore right-hander played it close to the vest and the scouting report, inducing eight fly outs by St. Charles (32-10). Brennan Gilberti of St. Charles was also impressive, allowing five hits with two strikeouts.
“I was confident because I knew I had my guys behind my back on every pitch,” Egan said. “I just tried to command the zone. It didn’t matter where they hit it, these guys were everywhere.”
St. Charles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Nick Scioneaux singled to center, took second on an error and scored on a single by Lloyd Nash.
The Comets couldn’t maintain the momentum. STA tied it in the bottom of the third. Kyle King singled and moved to second on an infield single by Reed Bolton. Artigues walked before King scored on a fielder’s choice by Hunter Stanley.
After trading outs for another inning, the Falcons took the lead in the fifth. King reached on an error, and Bolton was hit by a pitch before Artigues stepped to the plate.
Morgan called for a hit-and-run, and Artigues smashed a 3-2 pitch into the right-field corner, scoring both runners.
“We have lived and died by the hit-and-run, and it’s made some people timid to pitch to us with certain counts,” Morgan said. “On that at-bat, we had guys at first and second, and I saw (St. Charles) had a pitch-out called and we scrapped it.
“And they threw a ball and took a mound visit so I put it on again. That turned into everybody moving, and we were able to score enough to win the ballgame.”
The going got even tougher for St. Charles. The Comets had just one hit — a single by Zack Weber in the sixth — after the Falcons took the lead. Egan retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced, striking out two in the final inning.
“The plan was not to go up there and take, but that’s what we did,” St. Charles coach Wayne Stein said. “(Egan) threw strike one and got ahead. Once he got strike one, we had to try to hit his pitch.
“I don’t think we were able to turn the page from (Friday’s) game plan to (Saturday’s) game plan. We practiced it so much. It’s tough to come back 24 hours later and do it again.”