Episcopal pitcher Chris Thibodaux maintains poise as Knights blank Runnels 3-0 _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Episcopal's Chris Thibodaux (1) pitches against Runnels, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, at Runnels High School in Baton Rouge, La.

Episcopal senior pitcher Chris Thibodaux was unnerved in the bottom of the first inning when he walked two Runnels batters.

When the Raiders took advantage of a pair of two-out infield errors in the fourth, Thibodaux didn’t flinch.

“He’s our guy; he’s been that way all season,” Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said. “He’s a very competitive kid and doesn’t let little things bother him.”

When Runnels threatened to cut into Episcopal’s early three-run lead, Thibodaux turned away the Raiders each time en route to a complete-game 3-0 victory Tuesday in the District 7-2A opener for both teams.

“I just keep doing what I do,” Thibodaux said. “I try to throw strikes and let my defense work for me. The offense worked early. I just kept throwing the way I’ve been throwing, and the team responded.”

Thibodaux (6-1) pitched a five-hit shutout and enabled Episcopal (16-5) to win for the seventh time in its past eight games.

The Knights will host the Raiders (4-11) in the series finale at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Episcopal provided Thibodaux with all the run support he needed with a 3-0 lead through two innings.

Chris Beckman Jr., after fouling off a pair of 0-2 pitches, singled home Nick Patty, and Matthew Distefano made it 2-0 with a ground-rule double to the left-center gap.

The Knights added an unearned run in the second on Patty’s fielder’s choice RBI that scored Colton Decell.

Runnels starter Devyn Samson recovered after a 29-pitch first inning to keep Episcopal hitless until Matthew Garrett’s pinch-hit single to lead off the seventh.

Samson yielded four hits, walked three and struck out two in a 93-pitch outing before giving way to Johnny Johnson in the seventh.

“Devyn did a great job of bulldogging his way through the rest of the game after a little shaky start,” Runnels coach Tookie Johnson said. “He kept us in the game. We had our opportunities with the bases loaded, and we just couldn’t get that timely hit.”

Thibodaux, who threw 61 of 101 pitches for strikes, issued two of his three walks in the first inning after one out. He picked off a runner and got out of the inning with a fielder’s choice.

Runnels had a runner on in six of seven innings against Thibodaux, stranding two in the fourth and the bases loaded in the sixth.

Thibodaux stopped a potential threat in the fourth with a fielder’s choice after Episcopal committed back-to-back errors after a double play. He worked out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the sixth with an infield fly rule and the fourth of his six strikeouts.

“You have to have mental toughness to overcome the game in a way,” Thibodaux said. “Errors are going to happen, and you have to understand that.

“You have to keep throwing strikes and give them (defense) another opportunity, so they feel comfortable to make the next play.”