LAFAYETTE — It was a picture perfect afternoon for softball as St. Thomas More hosted to Belle Chasse with a trip to the LHSAA’s Fast Pitch 56 on the line.

Entering the seventh inning, STM found itself up 7-0 and in complete control and only three outs away from securing a quarterfinal matchup next weekend at Frasch Park in Sulphur.

But those final three outs quickly became anything but a guarantee.

Belle Chasse’s Haley Johnson started the seventh with a single up the middle, STM then walked Haley Barbazon giving the Lady Cardinals two on with nobody out. Next up, Emily Clark reached on an infield single to load the bases for three-hole hitter Brookelyn Sweeney.

Rather than allowing Sweeney to hit, STM intentionally walked in Belle Chasse’s first run on the game.

A sacrifice fly from Felicia Barber made the score 7-2, with just one out in the seventh.

STM pitcher Whitney Romero then struck out Makaylyn Helms, leaving the Cougars just one out from victory. But determined not to go quietly, Belle Chasse left fielder Kelsey Johnson roped a bases-clearing double, cutting the Cougars lead to 7-4.

Despite giving up the double, Romero rebounded to strike out Cali Fava ending the rally and securing a 7-4 victory.

Other than the seventh inning, in which she allowed four runs on three base hits, Whitey Romero had the Belle Chasse hitters off balance all afternoon. Romero gave up six hits and struck out 14.

STM (19-9) jumped out to an early lead that looked almost insurmountable until the Belle Chasse rally in the seventh.

The Lady Cougars used three walks in the first inning to load the bases before designated player Devyn Hogan roped a two-RBI single to center, giving STM a 2-0 lead.

Hogan’s single came off of new Belle Chasse pitcher Haley Barbazon, who replaced starter Brookelyn Sweeney after one-third of an inning.

STM added to its lead in the second inning with a two-out rally to score three times. Back-to-back walks to Bailey Hemphill and Paityn Desermeaux started the rally. Romero then helped her own caused by ripping a two-run triple to right. Courtney Bourque then brought Romero home with a single to center.

The Cougars then added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, pushing their lead to seven.

While STM managed just five hits, the Cougars took advantage of nine walks and reached base on four Cardinals errors.

STM coach Andria Waguespack praised her lineup.

“I’m super proud of the young ones, they pitched around Bailey (Hemphill) and we had some young ones step up. Devyn Hogan, huge first inning two RBI, can’t get any bigger than that as a freshman.” Waguespack then added “the young ones had to step up and they did, I’m super happy to see that.”

Even though they gave up four runs in the seventh inning the STM coaching staff was not completely dissatisfied. The Cougars did not let Belle Chasse’s best hitters Haley Barbazon or Brookelyn Sweeney beat them, a crucial part of STM’s game plan.

“We knew coming in they were their best hitters” said Cougar pitching coach Danielle Price “so when we walked Barbazon (in the seventh inning), we knew if we loaded the bases it didn’t matter if we walked in a run or not because we didn’t want Sweeney to hurt us with momentum.”

STM will face the No. 1 seed North DeSoto on Friday in Sulphur.

Belle Chasse finished 22-10.