Critics probably see it as a rematch. But for St. Michael the Archangel coach Johnny Bernhard a Class 4A semifinal with defending state champion St. Thomas More is a whole new ballgame.

“Seven of our nine starters on the field are first-year starters,” Bernhard said. “St. Thomas More didn’t graduate as many people as we did, but there are some differences for them, too.

“Here’s the thing … we know STM is a quality program. They had two guys drafted by major league teams last year and might have two more drafted this year. Not many high school programs on any level can say that. We just have to be focused on doing the things we do and just playing the game.”

Sixth-seeded St. Michael (23-10) takes on No. 2 St. Thomas More (28-8) in a Class 4A semifinal that helps open the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament. Game time is 7 p.m. Thursday at McMurry Park in Sulphur. Top-seeded Tioga plays No. 5 Teurlings Catholic in the other 4A semifinal at 4 p.m. The title game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.

A year ago, the Lafayette-based Cougars shut down St. Michael’s potent offense to claim a 4-1 semifinal win. From there, STM went on to shut out Monroe-based Neville in the title game.

Bernhard plans to start either Jonathan Lofton (6-2) or Evan Becnel (4-3). Hogan Harris (5-1), a Louisiana-Lafayette signee, could get the start for St. Thomas More.

The game will feature future LSU teammates in shortstop O’Neal Lochridge and outfielder pitcher Brennan Breaux of STM and third baseman Christopher Reid of St. Michael. Reid is batting .400 for the Warriors with 29 runs scored. St. Michael is making its third tourney appearance in five seasons.

Lochridge has 12 home runs, 53 RBIs and is hitting .456. Breaux is at .424 and has 41 runs scored, along with threehomers and 27 RBIs. Breaux also is 8-1 on the mound.

One thing Bernhard said the Warriors must do is avoid falling behind early.

“We have to be prepared to start fast,” Bernhard said. “They’re not the kind of team you want to fall behind against.

“St. Thomas More has the kind of program everybody wants to have.

“We welcome the chance to see how we stack up and compete against them.”