May 30th, 2018

Littlefield fuels Tigers run to region title game

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer


Littlefield fuels Tigers run to region title game
Chase Patton had a triple and scored twice for St. X (photo by Eric Thorne)

Andrew Littlefield was in a complete zone on the mound for the St. Xavier baseball team, and Eastern had no answer. The Tigers advanced to the championship game of the Seventh Region with an 14-0 victory Tuesday at the University of Louisville’s Jim Patterson Stadium.

The senior threw a complete game three-hit shutout and helped his own cause at the plate with a single, triple and two walks. He also scored three times and drove in two runs.

“Being able to hit two-out RBI’s is huge and for us because we know if we keep things simple then big things like the triples will come and pay off,” Littlefield said. “For me to go a complete game meant saving some arms on the team for Thursday, and I didn’t throw that many pitches through five innings either.”

St. X (32-2) got a quick jump on the Eagles in the second inning when Ryan Nicholson tripled home Littlefield with a shot to the right field fence. Two batters later Chase Patton lined an identical shot that scored Nicholson for an early 2-0 lead.

Patton, one of only four seniors on the team, could tell from his catchers spot that Littlefield was focused and dialed in.

“I’ve known Andrew for a long time and caught him like four or five years and I could tell he was all business,” said Patton, who also reached base all three times and scored twice.

“I think right now we are trying to put the fire in our bats and get in that grove to finish strong,” Patton said.  “Getting three triples got it started and I’m glad we were able to put them to the grave and move on to the next game.”

Aric Lyons walked to open the third for the Tigers and two hitters later Littlefield dropped a triple on the line at the bottom of the right field fence.  The junior was awarded home on a wild pitch off a check swing by Brycen Harkins.

Eastern had its best scoring opportunity in the third when they got two runners aboard, but the Tiger defense shut down the threat.

Tiger second baseman Alex Adams was stellar on defense playing a part in six of nine outs through the first three innings.

“I am just really pleased with all aspects of our game tonight both at the plate, defensively and I think Andrew proved a point of how he can bounce back after that district loss,” St. X coach Andy Porta said. “Our approach at the plate was good by putting the ball in play, running the bases well and not making mistakes. We are right where we want to be.”

St. X erupted for four runs in the fourth as Patton led off with a walk and Lyons was hit by a pitch. Trey Sweeney drilled a hard bouncer behind second base that shortstop Colin Kenworthy couldn’t handle. Patton slid under the tag of catcher Tanner Head on Kenworthy’s throw home.

Cam Scheler then lifted a high fly to left that Jared Sease lost in the lights and Lyons and Sweeney each raced home making it 7-0. Scheler was then balked home by relief pitcher Luke Fisher.

The Tigers rocked Eastern starting pitcher and University of Kentucky signee Brenden Koester for eight runs off four hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Baseball is all about momentum, and if we keep it on our side we will roll with one out, two outs it doesn’t matter,” Patton said. “Most likely if we score first we are going to win the game. I love the post-season because I am so competitive and I hope that this game sent a message.”

“As a team we have some fire in our belly and we are ready to stick it to Male and show them we are the best team in the state right now. The only team that can beat us is ourselves and we have to show them Thursday,” Patton said.

Harkins opened the fifth with a perfect bunt single down the third base line only to see the game halted for a 40 minute rain delay.

When play resumed the junior promptly stole second and raced home on a sacrifice fly by Adams.  Sweeney then singled home Patton who had drawn a walk making it 10-0.

The Tigers added four more in the inning including a sacrifice fly from Nicholson and an RBI single by Bryce Elmore for a 14-0 lead.

“We weren’t sure what was going to pop up on the radar and not rubbing it in their nose but we had to get to 10 as soon as possible,” Porta said. “Unfortunately for them I think their pitching kind of ran out, and we ended up scoring six that inning.”

Littlefield wasted little time returning allowing a single and walk, but his teammates easily bailed him out with a double play to end the game.

“That was a really long five-inning game for sure,” said Littlefield. “We stayed focused, got loose and came back ready to play. I was definitely going to finish that game out. That’s difficult with a delay, but we didn’t want to come back tomorrow so it was focus on finishing strong.”

Eastern coach Thomas Graves said his team felt confident coming into the game based after playing the Tigers tough in an 8-5 early season defeat.

“I really thought we could compete with them coming into the game, but they are a really, really, really good team,” Graves said. “Littlefield was fantastic on the mound for them and give them all the credit for this win the way they pitched and hit.”

The Eagles finished the season 22-13 and while it ended in the regional’s Graves feels his team in trending on a upward climb.

“Last year we got here and I think the kids were a little big-eyed in awe a little, and this year was more business like,” Graves added. “I think this has set us up for good things to come.”

St. X advances to face Male in the regional final 5:30 pm Thursday night at Jim Patterson Stadium with a trip to the state tournament at stake.

The Tigers also will be looking for some payback for the team that defeated them 7-5 in the 26th District title game last week. It also handed the state’s top ranked team just their second loss of the year.

“We have a couple of our seniors really have stepped up and are firing on all cylinders right now, and that’s a real plus for us,” said Llittlefield who took the loss to Male. “We throw that game away, and it’s a new game now. If we play our game no one can beat us.”

 

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