SULPHUR — Pushing across seven runs in their first at-bat, top-seeded St. Thomas More captured the Class 4A state baseball championship with a 13-0 victory over No. 6 seed Neville on Saturday afternoon at McMurry Park.
STM (31-4), which scored its first state title since 1992, jumped on Neville (27-12) starter Caleb Luffey, knocking him out of the game in the first inning.
Clay Harst was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and, after Brennan Breaux walked, Chase Vallot drove in Harst with an RBI single. Breaux also scored on the play to make it 2-0, with Vallot advancing to third base.
Running for the STM catcher, courtesy runner Grant Cox scored on a Luffey wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Luffey was replaced by reliever David Patrick after walking Christian Leonard. After Orynn Veillon walked, Brandon Romero cleared the bases with a triple to extend the lead to 6-0.
“This was one of the best focused games we have played all year long,” Cougars coach Gary Perkins said. “I think that was the biggest reason that we had one of our best early-inning performances of the season.”
With STM up 7-0, an RBI double by Vallot and an RBI single by Mason Templet in the third put the game out of reach at 9-0. Veillon launched a mammoth grand-slam home run over the left-field wall to end the game via the 10-run rule in the sixth.
Perkins credited an all-around team effort in his team’s championship victory.
“I have to give credit to our seniors,” he said. “Our seven seniors led us all year long, and we gave the ball to a senior tonight in Wyatt Marks, who has been good for us all year long. We expected to be here. We had six starters back from last year’s team that lost in the 4A title game. My hats go off to my senior class; they led this team all year, and our entire squad played hard all season long.”
While the STM offense was impressive, Marks was equally strong on the mound. Marks (8-1) went the distance in a shutout for the Cougars, allowing only four hits and striking out four. He was named Outstanding Player of the Game.
“All the long practices and sprints at the start of the season are completely worth it now,” Marks said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates out there. They were just as big of a part of it as I was.
“Getting out to the big lead had a very relaxing effect on me because it meant I could just go out there and pitch and not have to worry about being perfect. Getting double-digit runs is a pitcher’s dream.”