June 7th, 2018

Tigers advance at state with thrilling win over PRP

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Tigers advance at state with thrilling win over PRP
St. X's Andrew Littlefield throws a pitch / photo by Conor Revell

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Anything that could happen, did when St. Xavier’s baseball team faced Pleasure Ridge Park in the first round of the Whitaker Bank KHSAA State Baseball Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark Thursday night.

It was St. X that scored six runs in the top of the seventh and walked away victorious with a 13-7 victory unseating the defending state champion Panthers.

“Ryan Nicholson’s triple was huge,” St. X head coach Andy Porta said. “We were thinking about all of the possibilities. When he tripled, that solved a lot of problems. I said let’s see how many outs it will take to score him.

“But, I hate it for PRP. I have so much respect for them. It’s a blind draw and we try to beat everybody in our path. I feel for those guys. They have had a great run last year. They had tears in their eyes and I wanted to cry for them, but I’m happy for our kids, and I’ll take it.”

The regular season game was quite crazy too as the Tigers (34-2) won 17-5 and scored 12 of those runs in the final two innings to break a five-all tie.

But, tonight was even crazier, PRP (28-7) went up 5-1 in the second-inning, the Tigers scored five to make it 6-5 in the third.  

“We just had to fight back,” Cam Scheler said. “We knew we had five frames left and that’s a lot of time. We had to keep fighting and knew we had time on our side.”

The Panthers scored two in the bottom of the fourth to make it 7-6 and St. X tied it at seven in the top of the fifth.

Then the Tigers offense exploded scoring six runs in the top of the seventh to send PRP home packing.

Ryan Nicholson was the hero tripling to start the inning and scoring on a passed ball to give the Tigers a 8-7 lead.

“First pitch, he gave me a fastball,” Nicholson said. “Honestly, I thought he was going to throw me something off-speed. I was looking for something low and in-the-zone and I liked it and put it down the line.”

Brandon Tucker dropped a bunt and Panther pitcher Dallas Glass looked to third, but made an errant throw to first scoring a second run.

A third run was scored on a passed ball and Cam Scheler blasted a two-run bomb over the left-center field fence capping off the six-run inning.

“I think it was the third pitch of the at-bat,” Scheler said. “He threw me a slider first pitch. He came back with a fastball and was a little wild with it. He then came back with the same slider and I saw it pretty well.”

Brycen Harkins pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to seal the deal and was credited with the victory.

“I was throwing pretty much all fastballs,” Harkins said. “I had two batters where they knew I was mainly throwing fastballs and I threw curveballs to two and threw a changeup to the third. Two of them went down looking.”

Harkins threw the three final innings for St. X and didn’t allow a run and one hit, walked one, and struck out four.

“I’m going to respectfully disagree, he was all over the place the first two innings,” Porta said on Harkins performance. “I think in the seventh he finally settled down. He was wide open early. When he was in rhythm he was throwing strikes, when he wasn’t in rhythm, it was frustrating, and we were debating on whether or not to let him throw the seventh. But, when you score six, we let him go back out.”

Andrew Littlefield started on the hill for the Tigers and allowed five runs, three earned, four hits, and walked two in 1 and ? innings.

Evan Burnett threw in 2 and ? innings relief and gave up two runs, one earned, two hits, struck out two, and walked four.

“Burnett was throwing strikes,” Harkens said. “He did a great job of that. Sometimes he left the ball high and that made me focus on keeping the ball down and getting ahead of batters even though it didn’t always work.”

Garrett Schmeltz started on the hill for PRP and allowed five runs, four earned, five hits, struck out three, and walked two.

Glass tossed three innings in relief and was blasted for seven runs, two earned, five hits, and walked seven. David Aguilar pitched one inning and allowed one run, one hit, and struck out one.

The game started off with a bang.

Alex Adams blasted the first pitch from Schmeltz off the left-center-field wall and then scored on an error by the PRP second-baseman.

The Panthers responded in the bottom of the first when Noah McDonald singled, moved to second on a bunt, and scored on Nick Rucker’s single to tie it at one.

Littlefield ran into issues in the second when PRP loaded the bases and McDonald singled home a run a put the Tigers in a 2-1 hole.

Evan Burnett replaced Littlefield and disaster struck for St. X.

Blasczyk had an RBI grounder. Cavanaugh hit a routine pop-fly, but a little miscommunication caused the third baseman to drop the ball trying to avoid a collision with the shortstop scoring two runs and gave PRP a commanding 5-1 lead.

“Evan was in there for damage control,” Porta said. “If not for the miscommunication between Trey Sweeney and Bryce Elmore, we’re out of that inning only down two runs. But, it could have been even worse. Evan did his job and got us out of the inning.”

The Tigers got right back-up and scored four in the top of the third. Sweeney and Scheler both had run-scoring singles while Nicholson delivered a two-out two-run single to tie the game at five.

“We just had to work the count,” Nicholson said. “Early on we were swinging a lot. We started to get a lot more walks and put a lot more balls in play. We chipped away, we have done it many times before. We never count ourselves out.”

Sweeney’s run-scoring single in the fourth gave St. X a 6-5 lead.

“We have been down big multiple times with respect to our schedule.” Porta said. “We didn’t even need to talk to them. We knew there were a lot of outs and ballgame left. They kind of knew what they needed to do because our strength of schedule. They knew they had to answer.”

The Panthers answered scoring two runs with two outs in the bottom of the inning to grab a 7-6 lead. Dylan Carnes singled to left field scoring a run, but then the St. X second-baseman muffed the throw, and that scored the second-run.

Elmore came back in the top of the fifth with an RBI single to knot the game up at seven.

The Tigers will face Boyle County in the quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.


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