SULPHUR — After teammate and Tulane signee Corey Merrill pitched a two-hitter in Friday’s semifinal, LSU signee Jared Poche knew what he had to do Saturday.
And Poche did it with dominance, tossing a one-hitter and striking out 11, leading Lutcher High to a 4-0 victory over St. Thomas More in the Class 4A title game that closed the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Baseball Tournament for 4A, 3A, B and C.
Poche, a left-hander, was voted the title-game Outstanding Player at McMurry Park after facing 22 batters, one over the minimum, throwing first-pitch strikes to 16 of those hitters. He walked one, struck out four looking and threw only 86 pitches. For good measure, Poche also was the game’s top hitter, finishing 2-for-3 as the Bulldogs claimed the school’s first state title in baseball since winning a 3A crown in 1975.
“He (Poche) was better than we were,” St. Thomas More coach Gary Perkins said. “His performance on the mound was better than our offense. We have an outstanding offense, but we haven’t faced a pitcher that commanded three pitches (fastball, curve and changeup) as well as that young man did today.”
The second-seeded Bulldogs (29-4) scored all their runs in the first three innings. Three of those runs were unearned. J.P. Picard got the lone hit for top-seeded STM (29-5). Chase Calderera and Spencer Roussel had RBIs for Lutcher.
When asked about a pulled muscle in his side that had hampered in him recent weeks, Poche smiled.
“In a big game like this I didn’t feel anything,” Poche said. “I just wanted to come in and throw as many strikes as I possibly could. My pitching coach (Risley St. Germain) and I were on the same page all night. It (state title) is huge for the school. It’s been a long, long time since we won one. I wasn’t nervous, I was more pumped up.”
LHS coach Davey Clement said the title and back-to-back performances by Merrill and Poche were things he had dreamed about.
“I knew coming into the season who we had and what they were capable of,” Clement said of his pitchers. “Corey was out a month with his elbow. But we knew with our two guys on the hill we had a chance.
“When we get a lead, we know what Jared is capable of. We beat some really good teams in close games with him. Really, I don’t know if it (title) has hit me yet. Finally, it happened for us. Probably the whole town came.”
Lutcher capitalized on STM errors from the start. Zachary Zimmer singled with one out in the first inning, went to second when Poche walked and scored when Merrill reached on an error.
The Bulldogs added another unearned run in the second. Jordan Oubre singled with two outs, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error.
LHS increased its lead to 4-0 in the top of the third. Poche led off with a double to left-center field. Chase Calderera’s single scored courtesy runner Gavin Englade. Calderera’s courtesy runner, Ryan Jackson, moved to third on an error and scored on Spencer Roussel’s groundout.
Picard got a leadoff single in the third for STM. Orynn Veillon, who walked in the sixth, was the only other Cougars base runner.