April 4th, 2018

Tigers rally to defeat the Dragons

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Tigers rally to defeat the Dragons
St. X's Ryan Nicholson throws a pitch / photo by Sam Draut

St. Xavier reliever Leighton Keller had never pitched in a varsity game, but his name was called, and the junior pitched four stellar innings.

The Tigers got off to a shaky start, but recovered, and found a way to defeat visiting South Oldham 7-3 on a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon.

“We were planning on throwing four pitchers all along,” Porta said. “We have a busy week. We are playing Cincinnatti St. X tomorrow, Brother Rice Friday and Saturday, and Simon Kenton Saturday. The original plan was 2-2-2-1. But Leighton was throwing pretty well and we let him finished it out and saved the other arms. He was locating his curveball really and was throwing strikes.”

Keller threw four shutout innings, allowed one hit that was an infield single, struck out six, and walked one.

“They were having a lot of trouble with my curveball,” Keller said. “I was relying on my secondary pitches especially my curveball. I was able to locate it well. It has a sharp break at the end and I was able to get outs and get my team involved with groundouts. It was nice to finish it off.”

St. X starting pitcher Ryan Nicholson was rocked by the Dragons for three runs on four hit to go up 3-0 in the first inning.

“We got punched in the mouth that inning,” Nicholson said. “But, we came back and played well and did what we do best and that’s put the ball in play.”

Nicholson day was done after the first inning and recorded a strikeout and a walk. 

“We really just had to keep playing,” Porta said. “It was just the first inning. Ryan was really upset how he did but he had a really good at-bat in the bottom of the inning and battled and battled. We challenged everybody. Ryan came into the dugout and we told him he was done because he threw 30 pitches, the damage is done and help us with batting and at first base.”

South Oldham’s Tanner Salmon led off with an infield single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored the first run on Brennan LaBarbera’s triple.

Matt Reaves base hit scored LaBarbera and he scored on J.T. Benson’s double to put the Tigers in a 3-0 hole.

However, the Tigers (5-0) caught a break when South Oldham (3-2) struggled to make routine baseball plays and scored five runs in the second inning.

“We knew we were facing a good pitcher,” Alex Adams said. “Every game we’re going to face a good pitcher. That’s just the way thing are. We just had to be patient at the plate.”

Andrew Littlefield drew a one-out walk. Aric Lyons hit a grounder that was mishandled by third baseman J.T. Benson. Alex Smith walked to load the bases.

Adams and Trey Sweeny hit back-to-back grounders, but the Dragons mishandled both allowing one run to score each time and put St. X within 3-2 with one out.

Cam Scheler then walked in a run, Nicholson hit an RBI single, and Bryce Elmore’s run scoring grounder gave the Tigers a 5-3 lead when the inning finally came to a close.

“We were looking to get ahead in the count,” Nicholson said. “We made them throw a lot of pitches. That helped us out in the later innings. Once his pitch count got up, he was just throwing fastballs and we wanted to get in his heads and I believe we did so.”

St. X added another run in the third when Lyons scored on Adams sacrifice fly and their final run came off of Adams RBI single in the fifth.

“The first pitch kind of fooled me there,” Adams said. “I think it was a cutter or something. Second pitch was a fastball that came in and I kind of pulled it.”

Brycen Harkins pitched the second and third innings for the Tigers and allowed two hits, struck out three, and didn’t issue a free pass.

Adams went 1 for 3, reached base three times, and drove in two runs to lead St. X at the plate. Nicholson went 1 for 3 and drove in a run. Littlefield had a hit and drove in a run. Lyons had two hits and Smith had one hit apiece.

LaBarbera started on the hill for South Oldham and gave up six runs; four earned, three hits, struck out two, and walked five in four innings. Lincoln Price pitched two innings and allowed one run and three hits.

“I didn’t realize South Oldham was going to leave LaBarbera in that long,” Porta said. “Usually our kids are pretty good with velocity. It was select velocity and I think that was something that helped us out. We saw a lot of pitches and I think he was a little off command wise and was throwing up in the zone and off the plate. His pitch count was way up.”

The starting pitcher led the Dragons at the plate and had a double and a triple. Benson and Reaves both had a hit and drove in a run. Clay Satterly, Elsbury, and Salmon each had one hit. 


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