June 13th, 2018

Tigers relying on deep pitching staff

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Tigers relying on deep pitching staff
Andrew Littlefield throws a pitch / photo by Conor Revell

St. Xavier’s baseball team has had a stable of pitchers throughout the past decade, one group graduates; a new pack takes the lead.

This year is no exception and the current staff has the club in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament semifinals – Evan Burnett, Brycen Harkins, Andrew Littlefield, and Ryan Nicholson – get most of the starts, but any can come out of the bullpen in dire situations.

Adam Elliott, Daniel Fischer, Connor Holden, Cam Revelette, and Connor Underwood have been dominant aces for the Tiger in the past and members of the 2014 or 2016 state championship clubs or both.

“This year’s staff is probably the deepest one we have ever had but we don’t really have a true power arm that we have had in the past,”  St. X head coach Andy Porta said. “In 2016 we threw Elliott and Fischer until we had to throw Connor (Holden) in the finals. It’s definitely by committee this year.”

History has passed and it’s up to Burnett, Harkins, Littlefield, and Nicholson to get the job done and bring home state title No. 8 this weekend.

“I see a strong pitching staff,” Burnett said. “I have confidence in the other three and myself to get the job done. Whenever I see one warming up, I have confidence in all of them and they have confidence in everybody else and their defense.”

As a whole, the St. X pitching staff has a combined 2.29 ERA, struck out 169, allowed 85 runs, 69 earned, 190 hits, and walked 69 in 211 innings pitched.

“We have consistency for the most part, but not a clear cut No. 1,” Porta said. “It depends on the day, the week, or the month. I have no idea who is at the top of that list and it definitely changes throughout the course of the season and right now I couldn’t tell you who our No. 1 is. If I had to pick one – Burnett is still near the top – Littlefield, I’m completely confident in him – and Harkins has done a great job – and Nicholson has the fewest innings of the four, but is clearly one of our top four pitchers.”

Burnett posted a 7-2 record and had a 1.50 ERA in 42 innings pitched and 36 strikeouts during the regular season.

“Right now, I see myself as a pitcher taking care of damage control,” Burnett said. “I have four pitches and that allows me to keep opposing hitters off-balance.”

The senior ace can start or throw out of the bullpen as he’s the only one of the three that’s not a positional player.

“Evan has bailed us out of a lot of jams this season,” Porta said. “It’s a double-edge sword for him because the other pitchers are positional guys. It’s tough for us to get them loose and bring them in during the middle of an inning. With Evan, he’s in the dugout and we lean on him to get us out of jams. Again PRP in the regular season he got out of a bases loaded and nobody out jam without allowing a run.”

Harkins was 6-0 and had a 2.39 ERA during the regular season and 26 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched.

“I think it’s my job to throw my fastball as often as I can and get ahead in the count,” Harkins said. “Once I get ahead, I think I do a really good job of mixing my off speed pitch.”

Littlefield had a stellar 1.24 ERA and fanned 35 in 45 innings pitched and had a 7-0 regular season record.

“Along with Ryan and Brycen, my job is to go out there and play whether it’s starting as a pitcher, be a relief pitcher, or being a positional player,” Littlefield said. “If I’m pitching, my job is to keep the ball down and get guys out.”

Nicholson went 5-0 with a 2.80 ERA during the regular season and whiffed 24 hitters in 36 innings pitched.

The four some will be relied on and there’s always that’s available in the bullpen if the St. X pitching staff is stretched thin.

“Evan and Andrew are our two best control pitchers,” Porta said. “When Evan has all four pitches going, he’s pretty hard to beat despite allowing contact. Andrew is right there with Evan as long as he throws down and in the zone. Those guys are going to pitch contact and not go real deep in the count.”

Max Bergmann (0.47 ERA, 8 Ks, 15 IP) and Trey Sweeney (1.56 ERA, 10 Ks, 9 IP) are the Tigers top two relievers.

St. X will face Hazard in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday night at Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark with a trip to Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game on the line. 


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