May 31st, 2018

St. X beats Male, captures another regional title

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor


St. X beats Male, captures another regional title
The Tigers pose with the Seventh Region title trophy / photo by Conor Revell

St. Xavier’s baseball team is back on top of the Seventh Region as one of their best season in school history continues.

The Tigers fell behind two runs in the first inning, but put up a six-spot in the second inning including two home runs, and defeated Male 7-4 to win their sixth Seventh Region title in eight years Thursday night at the University of Louisville’s Jim Patterson Stadium.

St. X got revenge from a 7-5 loss suffered at the hands of the Bulldogs in the 26th District championship game just nine days ago.

“Honestly, that loss to Male was so much better than the McCracken County loss,” St. X head coach Andy Porta said. “With it being in town, district rivals, I think that really got our guys focus back.

“The McCracken County loss was like hey the streak is over, they’re from out of town, we traveled three and a half hours, and there were all kinds of excuses which I’m not  a fan of. Don’t get me wrong, I want to them all, but we didn’t. We had great practices leading up to the region and now we need to do the same leading up to state.”

But, the game didn’t start as planned.

John Ullom smashed a two-run bomb over the left field fence to put the Bulldogs (22-8) up 2-0 in the bottom of the first.

“It was just two runs,” St. X starting pitcher Evan Burnett said. “I trusted my defense and offense to keep us in the game. Home runs happen. You have to keep your composure on the mound, keep pitching, and focus on throwing a first pitch strike to the next batter.”

St. X (33-2)  answered in the second-inning when Bryce Elmore walked and Chase Patton hit a ball that the wind carried over the left-field fence to tie it at two.

“I knew they were going to come right at me and throw me something off-speed,” Patton said. “I just happened to get a piece of the fastball and honestly I didn’t even think it was going to go out. I saw it kept going and ended up being a big momentum for our side.”

Brandon Tucker doubled and Alex Adams blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence to break the tie and put Male in a 4-2 hole.

“It was my second at-bat of the game and I had faced Connor (Knoop) before,” Adams said. “I knew what his curveball was like. The first pitch he threw me a curveball and then he threw me another one. I saw the second pitch really well, it was low and inside, and it was outta here.”

The Tigers weren’t done as Trey Sweeney hit an RBI double and Andrew Littlefield hit a run-scoring single to make it 6-2 and sent 11 batters to the plate in the second.

St. X added their final run in the fourth inning when Tucker tripled and scored on Adams sacrifice fly.

The Bulldogs cut the lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh Ullom hit another two-run bomb over the left-field fence.

“Evan (Burnett) didn’t throw a lot of first pitch strikes and he’ll be the first to admit that,” Porta said. “But he competed, he was high in the count, and you got to give Male credit for taking advantage when he made a mistake. But, Tristan Garcia, we kept him off base for four at-bats. I’ll take that. We didn’t do a good job with the 2-3-4 hitters, but we did enough to win.”

Connor Knoop started on the hill for Male and allowed six runs, six hits, struck out two, and walked one in 1 and ? innings.

Kirkland relieved Knoop and pitched five innings and gave up one run, two hits, walked five, and struck out one. Knipp tossed a perfect seventh.

Burnett started for St. X and gave up two runs, five hits, struck out four, and walked two in four innings.

“We started with fastballs trying to get ahead of batters,” Burnett said. “The 2-3-4 hitters could obviously hit fastballs. We started mixing it up the second time through the lineup and threw changeups the third time through. It was working really well today.”

Bryce Harkins pitched the final three innings and allowed two runs, two hits, struck out two, and walked two.

Tucker led the Tiger offense going 3 for 4 and was a home run away from the cycle. Ryan Nicholson, Trey Sweeney, Adams, Littlefield, and Patton each had one-hit apiece.

“It’s another step in the process,” Porta said. “Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy the heck out of winning the regional tournament. But, again, notice that we weren’t in a dogpile - it’s just another step along the way. We’ll take Friday off and then we’ll get back to work and get ready for PRP.”

Ullom led the Bulldogs offense going 3 for 4 with two homers and drove in all four runs. Trevor Campbell had two hits and Todd Jackson and Chyran Cruse finished with one-hit apiece.

St. X advances to the 2018 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament and will play Pleasure Ridge, the defending state champ and winner over Bullitt East in the Sixth Region final, at 6 p.m. Thursday in the opening round.

“This win just gives us more fire,” Patton said. “We’re ready for four more. We have been saying that every time. Four more, let’s go.”

Four, that’s the magic number for the Tigers to win state championship number eight, and add to their already KHSAA best seven.

 

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