Corey Merrill pitches Lutcher past Tioga

SULPHUR — A solo home run by Tioga’s Dylan Roy ended Corey Merrill’s bid for a no-hitter in the top of the seventh inning.

But Merrill and Lutcher both got what they ultimately wanted — a berth in the Class 4A title game.

Merrill, a Tulane signee, tossed a two-hitter and struck out nine to power the Bulldogs to a 4-1 victory over Tioga in a Class 4A semifinal that helped conclude Friday’s action at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Baseball Tournament for Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A.

With the win, Lutcher (28-4) advances to play St. Thomas More (29-4) for the state championship at 4 p.m. Saturday at McMurry Park. The Bulldogs seek their first state title since winning Class 3A in 1975. STM beat defending champion Teurlings Catholic 4-3 in its semifinal.

Tioga finished 27-10.

“I felt great,” Merrill said. “When I got in the bullpen, all my pitches were on point. I knew about the no-hitter, but that didn’t matter. Winning was the most important thing.”

After yielding the home run to Roy and a single to Lane Vercher, Merrill struck out the next three Tioga batters to end the game.

In addition to striking out nine and issuing two walks, Merrill finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a run batted in. It was Merrill’s first start in about a month because of elbow issues.

“We weren’t sure what to expect from (Merrill),” Lutcher coach Davy Clement said. “He had some great workouts over the last couple of weeks, and we knew he had it in him. All our players stepped up today. We just wanted this so bad. I’ve said it before, it means the world to us.”

Zachary Zimmer scored two runs scored, while LSU signee Jared Poche added two RBIs for Lutcher, which beat Tioga for the third time in two seasons. The Bulldogs also eliminated the Indians in the second round of the playoffs in 2012.

Lutcher seized a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Sully Martin led off with a single to center. Martin stole second and took third when the throw to second bounced into the outfield.

After Zimmer walked, Poche laced a single that scored Martin. Zimmer moved to third on a passed ball. One out later, Poche was picked off first.

But Merrill worked Tioga starter Adam Nelson, fouling off a number of pitches before singling to left to score Zimmer, making it 2-0.

The Bulldogs doubled their lead in the bottom of the third. Jordan Oubre walked, took second on an errant pickoff throw and went to third on Zimmer’s single.

A sacrifice fly by Poche scored Oubre and moved Zimmer to second.

Zimmer then scored when Chase Calderera’s pop up to short center fell between three Tioga players.