Saints overcome early deficit to reach select Division II finals

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

SULPHUR — No. 1 St. Louis Catholic found themselves in an unfamiliar situation Thursday morning in select Division II semifinals at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association state baseball tournament at McMurry Park.

After dominating four playoff games in the prior rounds, the Saints trailed for the first time in the postseason but battled back to beat No. 5 St. Thomas More 7-3.

“Our kids never flinched,” St. Louis head coach Connor Lloyd said. “They kept going forward, and I am really proud of them for that. 

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“There was no panic in the dugout and no panic in the defense. Any time on that stage there is a little bit of doubt that will creep in, but I am telling you our guys never panicked. Our dugout stayed up, our players stayed up and they picked each other up. That is a sign of a championship ball club, so we are really excited.”

St. Louis Catholic (25-10) outscored opponents 59-0 before the Cougars scored the first run on the Saints in the second inning. STM took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning using small ball. A Carrier and K LeJeune bunted to bring home a pair of runs for a 3-2.

The Saints immediately responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning and took some pressure off themselves with three more in the fifth inning.

Three walks loaded the bases for the Saints in the fourth inning with one out. Carter Kramer grounded out to push the tying run across the plate, and the go-ahead scored on an error on the same play. St. Louis scored all of its runs in the fifth inning with two outs on Ryder Devall’s single and two base loaded walks.

After the Cougars took the lead, starting pitcher KeMonni Pullard locked up the Cougars (21-16) over the final three innings. He pitched a complete game with eight strikeouts and one walk. He didn’t allow a base runner in the final three innings and retired the side in the top of the seventh on three consecutive strikeouts.

“KeMonni went right back out there and got us a big zero,” Lloyd said. “He really put the team in his back today.”

St. Louis will face No. 2 Teurlings Catholic at 2 p.m. in the select Division II state championship game on Saturday. It is the Saints’ first title game appearance since winning a state championship in 2021. The Saints lost two Teurlings in the finals in 2017 11-4.

“It means everything,” Lloyd said. “It is a chance to play for a ring on Saturday. 

“That is what we do this for. The kids put in tireless hours offseason and in-season. They have worked so hard for this. To see them reap the benefits of that work is really special. This is a special group. There is great team chemistry. They are selfless, and they play hard. I can’t be more proud of them.”