COVINGTON — Behind Bailey’s Hemphill’s four-RBI day, the St. Thomas More Cougars advanced to the state quarterfinals with a 5-1 win over St. Scholastica in a Class 4A regional playoff game Friday afternoon.
The defending 4A state champions, fourth-seeded St. Thomas More (22-5) advances to to take on fifth-seeded Ellender, which defeated Bastrop 16-9 Friday afternoon.
“We survived and moved on,” Cougars coach Andria Waguespack said. “We will worry about our next opponent tomorrow. We are going to celebrate this win on the ride home, and then worry about the next game tomorrow. We are happy to be going back to Sulphur and compete for another state championship.
“Our offense did what we had to do. As long as you’re leading at the end of seven innings, you are going to give yourself a chance. I’ll take the win. We did what we have to do to move on.”
Wasting no time, the Cougars scored a pair of runs in their first at-bat. After Whitney Romero led off with a single, Courtney Halsell reached on an error trying to sacrifice her to second base to give STM runners on second and third base.
Hemphill’s sacrifice fly made it 1-0 and the Cougars scored another unearned run on another SSA error to make it 2-0.
Hemphill’s big bat came to life two innings later when she launched a towering two-run home run deep over the center field wall to extend the lead to 4-0. The Cougars catcher added another sacrifice fly in the seventh for her fourth RBI.
“We love it when we hit first because we know we get the chance to score first, and that means we will have the chance to get ahead,” Hemphill said. “We love playing in front. Our game plan is jump on teams early.
“I felt it immediately on the home run. The minute it hit the bat (knew it was gone).”
The reigning champions of District 8-4A, St. Scholastica (16-11) pushed across its lone run in the fifth inning on an RBI double by pitcher Chloe Conravey. The Doves sent the tying run to the plate an inning later, but failed to score.
Romero picked up the win in the circle for STM, going all seven innings. She allowed one unearned run on seven hits, striking out eight and not walking a batter.
“That kid is a competitor,” Waguespack said of her right-hander in the circle. “She and (catcher Bailey Hemphill) will compete all day long. That is what makes this team so strong. It starts from the inside, and those two are our inside.”
Conravey took the loss. She allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits, struck out three and walked four.
SSA coach Charles Richard was proud of his team’s effort against a strong STM team.
“We played well today,” he said. “That is a good team we played. Everybody that we talked to all week didn’t give us much of a chance, but going into the sixth inning we still brought the tying run to the plate. We were right there. Chloe pitched a really good game and kept us in the ballgame. Hats off to her.
“Our team didn’t play scared today. We told them show up today and take your best shot. You can’t play scared. You have to just go out and play your game.”