St. Paul’s of Covington pitcher Connor Simon saved the biggest three strikeouts of his career for last.
With the third-seeded Wolves leading second-seeded Brother Martin 4-3 going into the bottom of the seventh in the Division I semifinals Sunday night in Lake Charles, a pair of walks and a base hit by Brennan Stuprich loaded the bases with no outs.
Simon got Ethan Moser and Cole Stromboe out on called third strikes for the first two outs of the inning. He then got Blake Bufkin to strike out swinging, sending the Wolves to the Division I state championship for the second year in a row.
The win by St. Paul’s prevents an all-Catholic League state championship game. Earlier in the day, Rummel, the No. 4 seed, edged top-seeded Catholic of Baton Rouge, also by a 4-3 margin.
St. Paul’s will face Rummel at 3 p.m. Tuesday for the state title.
The Wolves jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
A run-scoring out when William Duncan hit into a fielder’s choice produced the game’s first run.
Mathew Russo followed with a base hit and a double-steal put runners on third and second with one out.
A run-scoring ground out to first base by Nick Wright, scoring Duncan and sending Russo to third base. Simon followed with a double to score Russo for a 3-0 lead for the Wolves.
After a tough first inning, Stuprich, the Brother Martin pitcher settled down and allowed the Crusaders to get back in the game.
Stuprich factored in a three-run fourth inning that allowed Brother Martin to tie the game.
He, along with Caden Nish, each had run-scoring singles and the Crusaders added another run on an error to tie the game.
After Brother Martin tied the game, the Wolves came up with what proved to be the game-winning run in the top of the fourth inning on a two-out single by Wright.