SULPHUR — “Good pitching will beat good hitting any time, and vice versa,” is attributed to ex-major leaguer Bob Veale in 1966.
The phrase explains how left-hander Hogan Harris and catcher Chase Vallot led top-seeded St. Thomas More to a 4-1 victory over No. 5 St. Michael the Archangel in Thursday’s Class 4A semifinal that helped close out the first day of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Baseball tournament at McMurry Park.
Harris (3-0) struck out 11 and allowed just two hits in 4.2 innings. Vallot, a Mississippi State signee, blasted a three-run home in the first inning.
“The Harris kid was extremely impressive, especially when you consider that he’s only thrown about 11 innings all season,” St. Michael coach Johnny Bernhard said. “He got healthy at the end of the year, like the (Cory) Merrill kid did for Lutcher last year. Sometimes a fresh arm can make the difference.”
STM (30-4) plays Neville (25-11), an 8-4 winner over West Ouachita in Thursday’s first 4A semifinal, in the 4A final set for 2 p.m. Saturday. St. Michael (24-10) had powered its way through the playoffs, including an 11-0 quarterfinal win over Benton. The Warriors never could find a way to get to a “vice versa” or get much of anything going.
Harris took a no-hitter into the fifth and gave up two infield singles. The Warriors loaded the bases but managed just one run. Orynn Veillon came on in relief and used a wicked slider to record a strikeout to end the threat.
“He (Harris) really had all his pitches tonight,” Vallot said. “I knew he was going to do well and in the end he got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Clay Harst finished 2-for-3 for STM and was the only hitter with multiple hits. Vallot’s homer and Christian Leonard’s RBI triple in the third gave STM all the offense it needed in a game in which the teams combined for eight hits.
St. Michael got two runners on in the top of the first. Austin Edens was hit by a pitch, and J.T. Mauldin drew a walk. Harris struck out two batters in the first, a sign of things to come.
Harst led off the bottom of the first with a single and took second on passed ball. Brennan Breaux walked before Vallot stepped to the plate. The STM catcher launched a home run off St. Michael starter Jonathan Lofton (5-2) to right center to make it a 3-0 game.
“At first I was very surprised that they (St. Michael) were even going to pitch to me,” Vallot said. “I sat on a fastball and was fortunate enough to drive it over the right centerfield wall.”
Harris filled the innings that followed with strikeouts. The Cougar starter didn’t allow a hit until Christopher Reid legged out an infield hit with one out and a runner on in the fifth. More importantly, he allowed only one hit — also an infield hit — to St. Michael’s power duo of Edens and Mauldin.
“He’s the best pitcher we’ve seen all year,” Edens said. “He reminds me a lot of (Jared) Poche’ (former Lutcher star now at LSU) in terms of the arm slot. He was tough. I’m glad we didn’t beat ourselves. They beat us.”
The Cougars added a run in the fourth. Sam Houston singled with one out and scored one out later on a triple to left center by Christian Leonard.
Catcher Ross Scelfo drew a walk, and Reid reached on his infield hit in the fifth. Edens also reached on an infield hit, smashing the ball up the middle, to load the bases. A wild pitch scored courtesy runner Garrett Hamilton before Veillon extinguished the threat.
St. Michael’s Bernhard also praised his Warriors, who went undefeated in District 6-4A en route to the school’s first tourney berth since 2011.
“Some of our kids were overmatched against him (Harris), Bernhard said. “But I thought they battled to the end. We got runners on there in the fifth and put some pressure on them. We were a play or two away. St. Thomas More made more plays tan we did. They’re an outstanding club.”
NEVILLE 8, WEST OUACHITA 4: Neville scored five runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat district rival and No. 2 West Ouachita 8-4 in the other 4A semifinal.
Trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh, Neville scored five runs on five hits. Third baseman Dixon Houston’s infield single tied the game at 4-4. Two batters later, Spencer Brooks gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead with a two-run single. Alex Prince’s two-run triple extended the lead to 8-4.
Oliver Campbell (7-2) picked up the win in relief.