LAFAYETTE — Sophomore Ethan Hines had pitched six strong innings and St. Thomas More coach Gary Perkins said he had no reservations sending Hines back out to face Catholic-Baton Rouge in the seventh.
“He pitched one heck of a ballgame,” Perkins said. “He got to 90 pitches and maybe in hindsight we bring someone else in to start the seventh, but we didn’t.”
Hines got the first batter to ground out in the seventh, but an error by Will Bellamy allowed the runner to reach. After Hines allowed a single to Brian Fairbanks, Perkins pulled him for Drew Hughes.
The wheels began to rattle as Hughes balked to put the tying runs in scoring position and the Bears offense exploded for seven runs. Catholic’s Nick Deranger came into pitch three innings of lights-out relief and the Bears won 9-4.
“Throughout the game, they believed we would win and believed in each other,” Bears coach Brad Bass said. “When they get backed into a corner, they start to respond. They just move the line for the next guy. I’m real proud of them.”
The Bears scored seven runs in the top of the seventh inning on three hits — none bigger than two-RBI double from Josh Smith. Bass said his team was relentless in the pursuit of excellence.
“That is what we pride ourselves by,” Bass said. “These guys want to go compete at the highest level. We talk about the fact that the play doesn’t care who makes it and the hit doesn’t care who hits it. We just want to give ourselves an opportunity and these guys get it.”
For Perkins, he said he was extremely proud of the fight in his team. He commended Hines on his pitching performance and said the mistakes in the field cost them a chance to win.
“We booted a few balls, and they got some clutch hits,” Perkins said. “That’s the way baseball is played. That’s a typical Catholic team. They aren’t going to quit.
“This is a tough loss, but it wasn’t because we pulled the pitcher. We make a couple errors that set up the table with one out. We could have been out of the inning even with Hines in there and with two outs, I provably leave him in.”
In relief for the Bears, Deranger threw three innings, allowed just one run and struck out six. Deranger struck out the side in the seventh and Bass said Deranger is starting to return to his old form.
“Nick was awesome,” Bass said. “It was back to the old Deranger that we know and love. He went in there and got the momentum back and closed the door.”
Bass said Friday’s win was a big one and will be a momentum-builder for the Bears season.
“This was a huge one because this was the next one,” Bass said. “When you can beat a St. Thomas More, it’s a nice win. All these games count right now and we want to test ourself against this caliber competition.”
LIVE OAK 8, LAFAYETTE 3: In Lafayette, Live Oak set the tone three pitches in to Friday night’s win against Lafayette High.
Eagles leadoff hitter Lenni Kunert got ahead of Lions starter Emile Lege 2-0, and Kunert hammered Lege’s third pitch off the batter’s eye in straight-away center field for a leadoff home run.
“Our leadoff guy Kunert is pretty good,” Live Oak coach Greg Briggs said. “He got us started, and it just takes off from there.”
It was the first of three homers for Live Oak (10-5), who made Lafayette (11-4) pay for the mistakes it made.
The next home run came later in the first, immediately after Lions right fielder Ben Reynolds lost a slicing fly ball in the sun, the ball glancing off his glove and rolling to the right field corner with two outs.
Eagles left fielder Preston Faulkner made the Lafayette High pay for the error, lifting the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to give Live Oak a 3-0 lead after the top half of the first.
“They got seven hits, and three of them leave the yard,” Lions coach Sam Tauli said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
The Lions rallied for a run in the bottom half of the first when first baseman Hudson Laborde knocked in Antoine Duplantis with a sharp RBI single, but their mistakes cost them again.
Lafayette had the bases loaded with one out and attempted a squeeze play on a full count with shortstop Bo Hardin at the plate. But Hardin pulled his bat back on a called third strike, and third baseman Branson Audette was an easy out at the plate.
It was the first of two potentially big rallies defused by an Eagles’ double play, the second coming when a courtesy runner lost track of the outs in the fifth inning and was picked off third base on a fly ball to the first baseman.
Live Oak pitcher Hunter Merritt kept the Lions off balance for most of the game, firing 6.1 innings of three-run ball before giving way to Zach Hansen for the final two outs. Hansen induced a fly ball to center field and a ground ball to shortstop to end the game.
Merritt was consistently in the strike zone, which is what his coach wanted to see.
“I thought he did a good job of getting ahead,” Briggs said. “We went into the game talking about how you can’t walk these guys. You’ve got to make them swing it, and hopefully they hit it at us.”
Kunert and Faulkner harassed Lions pitching throughout. Faulkner hit another two-run homer, this one to the opposite field, in the third inning to give the Eagles a 5-1 lead. Kunert finished 4-for-4 with a home run, a double and three runs scored.
The Lions got a big day from their leadoff hitter Duplantis, an LSU signee, who went 4-for-4 with a double and three runs scored, but the rest of the Lions lineup went quiet, collecting only two hits.
“He does everything he can to help us,” Tauli said. “Defensively he’ll run down balls, he’ll steal bases, he does whatever he can do.
“We’ve got other guys in the lineup that are capable of doing the same thing, they’ve just got to get it done.”
Lafayette High will get a chance to rebound with a Saturday doubleheader, against Central at 10 a.m., and Walker at 2 p.m.