St. Thomas More beats St. Michael in 5 innings _lowres

Associated Press photo by Roddy Johnson/The (Lake Charles) American St. Thomas More's Brennan Breauxsteals second in a Class 4A semifinal game at the state baseball at McMurray Park in Sulphur.

SULPHUR — St. Thomas More is one away from repeating as state champions.

For the second straight season, No. 2 STM beat No. 6 St. Michael the Archangel to advance to the Class 4A state championship game. The Cougars held off the Warriors for a 12-2 win in five innings at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Baseball tournament Thursday at McMurry Park. STM defeated St. Michael 4-1 in last year’s semifinal game before routing Neville 13-0 in the title game.

STM will now face crosstown rival No. 5 Teurlings Catholic in Saturday’s championship game at 2 p.m.

It’s the first meeting in the postseason between the two schools since the 2013 semifinals, which STM won 4-3. The Cougars won both District 5-4A meetings this year but did so by a single run, winning 2-1 and 4-3 in 12 innings in a game played at McMurry Park.

“You have two teams from the same district obviously that have played twice this year,” STM coach Gary Perkins said. “One run ball games and a 12-inning ball game. So I think everyone that witnessed those two ball games saw two quality teams playing. I don’t expect nothing less than a good brand of high school baseball Saturday at 2 o’clock.”

STM’s big lefty Hogan Harris struggled with his control in Thursday’s game.

The Louisiana-Lafayette signee gave up a pair of hits and walked four while throwing 57 pitches in the first two innings. St. Michael failed to capitalize, registering only one run as Garrett Hamilton scored on a double down the right field foul line by Christopher Reid in the second.

Harris settled down and retired the next seven batters, including four on strikeouts.

STM meanwhile jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Brandon Romero led off the game with a single, stole second base and scored on a passed ball.

Brennan Breaux reached on a single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Christian Leonard.

The Cougars padded their lead in the bottom of the third.

Romero and Breaux led off with walks and O’Neal Lochridge loaded the bases on an error. Mason Templet drove in both with a double, and Lochridge scored on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Langlinais.

St. Michael starter Jonathan Lofton took the loss after giving up five runs on three hits in two innings.

“I didn’t say nothing to the kids,” Perkins said. “I kind of leaned heavy on the offense, though, once I saw we were struggling on the mound. My top four hitters did the rest.”

After back-to-back strong innings, STM’s Harris got into trouble in the top of the fifth.

With one out, Harris hit St. Michael’s Evan Becnel and then walked Chad Alello to put runners on first and second. Harris got ahead in the count against Michael Smith but hit him to load the bases with only one out. Harris then walked Leighton Waltz to bring in a run.

STM’s ace got the next batter to hit a dribbler, which he fielded and threw out Alello at home plate. With the bases still loaded, Harris struck out Ross Scelfo to end the inning.

“I started looking at the situation, and Harris wasn’t throwing strikes,” Perkins said. “Now some of the pitches looked like they could have been strikes, but still it was like that on both sides. Hogan wasn’t sharp tonight but this team isn’t about pitching only.”

STM wrapped up the victory in the bottom of the fifth, scoring seven runs, set up by five walks and one hit batter to start the inning.

The Cougars advanced to the state championship game for the third straight season and are looking to win back-to-back titles for the first time in program history.

“Last year it was about winning the first one,” Perkins said. “We lost in the finals two years ago but last year that team was focused and really put on a good show. This team understands what the process is. All we got to do is get the younger kids to come together, which shouldn’t be very hard considering both teams are from Lafayette. It’s going to be a great game.”