June 14th, 2018

St. X and Hazard to fight for spot in the finals

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor


St. X and Hazard to fight for spot in the finals
file photo by Conor Revell

Disclaimer: Stats are from the regular season and district and regional tournaments only.

St. Xavier’s top-ranked baseball team road to title No. 8 continues Friday night at 6 p.m. against Hazard in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA State Baseball Tournament semifinals.

“They may be a small school, but Hazard is a scrappy team,” St. X head coach Andy Porta said. “I’ve watched four of their games already. They’re going to be similar to Boyle County as they’re free swingers. They put the bat on the ball and they probably have more strikeouts than Boyle, but I assume most were by swinging and not by looking. They are an aggressive team.”

Hazard defeated Corbin 5-1 in the opening round and stunned No. 6 Greenup County 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

“As long as we can jump on them early and get some momentum, that will help us a lot,” St. X shortstop Trey Sweeney said. “If we can find a way to get on base, I think that helps us a lot. We do well with momentum so once we get going, we will keep going.”

The Tigers scored six runs in the seventh inning to dispatch fourth-ranked Pleasure Ridge Park 13-7 in the first round and beat No. 13 Boyle County 9-5 in the quarterfinals.

Some fans and parents are concerned about the St. X defense making six errors in their first two tournament games.

“I’m not that worried about our defense,” Porta said. “We have made mistakes and they’re going to happen. We still pride ourselves on defense. On the flipside, we’re at 30 double plays and second in the record book, last year’s team had 34 and that’s the record. We’re still playing good defense even though we made some mistakes last weekend. It’s not a concern of mine, but we’ll keep working on it.”

Now, a trip to the state championship game is on the line. The Tigers are looking to win their third championship in five while the Bulldogs are seeking their first trip to the finals in 38 years.

Evan Burnett (1.50 ERA, 42 IP, 36 Ks), Brycen Harkins (2.39 ERA, 38 IP, 26 Ks), and Andrew Littlefield (1.24 ERA, 45 IP, 35 Ks) will lead St. X on the mound.

“From the film we have seen, they can hit the ball really well,” Burnett said. “We have to get on them early with first pitch strikes. If we can mix-up our speed and pitches, I think we have a good chance to do really well against them.”

Sweeney (.379, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs) is St. X’s glue on the field and at the plate and will be a calming influence if times get tough.

He’s also their top closer and had three saves during the regular season with a 1.56 ERA in nine innings pitched.

Aric Lyons (.345, 3 HRs, 22 RBIs), Alex Adams (.284, 2 HRs, 21 RBIs), Scheler (.280, 1 HR, 26 RBIs), Littlefield (.371, 20 RBIs) and Harkins (.353, 14 RBIs) will play key roles at the plate.

“We’re going to have a similar approach to when we played PRP,” Porta said. “Morris has velocity and decent off-speed stuff. We’re going to have to see balls down and below the zone and not chase anything above the belt. He likes to work away too and we have to work with that.”

Hazard will be led by their pitching despite only having five.

“If we can score first, that could be a huge momentum booster,” Harkins said. “We want to jump on them in that first inning because we’re the away team. Then if we can shut them out, that can help us keep the momentum going.”

Devin Morris is their top dog and has a 7-4 record with a 2.01 ERA and has struck out 84 in 52 innings pitched.

“I think the Morris kid will pitch against us,” Porta said. “He’s mid to upper 80s. You’re right they’re a small school, but at this point it doesn’t matter – it’s all about that one guy on the mound. If he’s on, he can shut anybody down. We have to take them very seriously. We have all our hands on-deck and our energy is focused on taking care of Hazard.”

Andy Baker (2.03 ERA, 20 Ks, 31 IP), Bailey Blair (1.91 ERA, 25 Ks, 33 IP), Kyle Johnson (1.40 ERA, 33 Ks, 20 IP), and Jarrett Napier (1.35 ERA, 29 Ks, 31 IP) could also see time on the hill.  

Trajon Campbell (.449, three home runs, 31 RBIs), Blair (.446, four home runs, 32 RBIs), Morris (.441, five home runs, 49 RBIs), Baker (.386, four home runs, 32 RBIs), Johnson (.379, 27 RBIs,) and Bryson Parks (.311, 10 home runs, 33 RBIs) are the Bulldogs top sluggers.

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday night at Lexington’s Whitaker Bank Ballpark, the second semifinal game between Highlands and McCracken County will follow immediately after this one.

The championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.

 

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