June 9th, 2018

Tigers use big third inning to dispatch Rebels at state

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Tigers use big third inning to dispatch Rebels at state
St. X's Ryan Nicholson throws a pitch / photo by Conor Revell

LEXINGTON, Ky. - St. Xavier’s baseball team fell behind for the second straight game in the the Whitaker Bank KHSAA State Baseball Tournament.

But, the Tigers rebounded, and defeated Boyle County 9-5 Saturday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark to secure a spot in next Friday’s semifinal against Hazard.

The victory didn’t come easy as the Rebels (27-7) came out ready to play meanwhile St. X had to overcome some early game jitters.

Boyle County loaded the bases in the top of the second and went up 2-0 when Hunter Mason hit a grounder and the Tiger first baseman mishandled it and the ball went into the stands scoring two.

“There’s no magic formula to cleaning up our defensem,” St. X head coach Andy Porta said. “We’ll go back to work. Like I said earlier, we have been taking ground balls on the grass field, but we may honestly take some on the asphalt. This grass infield is very, very hard. Some of those balls are hit hard, it’s a high bounce, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

However, the lead was short lived.

“I honestly started to hit my spots more and placed the ball more low,” St. X starting pitcher Ryan Nicholson said. “They’re a very aggressive swinging team and I had to take advantage of that and stay in the zone and I felt like I started to do that more after that inning. I was mixing more offspeed pitches and that was a big help.”

St. X (35-2) struck in the bottom of the third with five runs. Trey Sweeney’s sac-fly made it 2-1, Andrew Littlefield blasted a 2-run double off the right-field wall, Ryan Nicholson’s had an RBI single, and Bryce Elmore had a run-scoring sacrifice fly.

“I saw they walked Cam Scheler the at-bat before,” Littlefield said. “I was thinking I need to get the job done and get us a run so that we could tie it up. Then there pitcher left one a little high on the first pitch, I fouled it off. On the second pitch, I was definitely on time, I just missed it and fouled it back, on the third pitch, it was a little bit early and I was able to pull it.”

Karson Thompson had an RBI single in the fifth, but the Rebels never got any closer.

The Tigers added four more runs in the fifth. Chase Patton and Tucker both had run scoring singles and Aric Lyons delivered a two-run single.

“I think Aric Lyons diving catch changed the game,” Porta said. “That was a gutsy play. We never tell a kid to not go for that if they have a good read. That was a gutsy play. If that ball goes by him, who knows how many runs score on that hit. Andrew’s hit was good, I didn’t think it was off the wall, but the darn thing was.”

Tevin Leigh had a run-scoring hit in the seventh and Boyle County got another run on that same play because of a St. X throwing error.

Lyons led the St. X offense going 2 for 4 with two runs batted, Littlefield was 2 for 3 and drove in two runs, Patton was 3 for 3 and drove in a run, Sweeney was 2 for 3 and had a knock, Tucker was 2 for 3 and had one RBI, and Elmoren was 1 for 1 with an RBI.

“I think anytime we get down, it get us more focused with our approach,” Lyons said. “You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s what happens. When we got in the dugout after that inning we talked about just getting on-base. I think that’s what happened. We got to see their pitcher for a second time and it was contagious.”

Grant Hotchkiss led the Rebels at the plate and went 2 for 3. Mason, Dragen, and Thompson each had one hit apiece.

Thompson started on the hill for the Rebels and allowed five runs, five earned, six hits, fanned one, and walked three in 2 and ? innings. Hotchkiss replaced Thompson and gave up two runs, one hit, walked two, and struck out one in two innings. Dragen finished the game and allowed one run, three hits, and walked one.

“I think Boyle County was running out of pitching as the game wore on,” Porta said. “We knew they were low on pitching. It was about staying with the approach and seeing the ball down and in the zone. If it’s there, drive it, if it’s not, don’t chase anything bad. We were just putting the bat on the ball and we got a lot of singles.”

Nicholson started on the hill for the Tigers and allowed three runs, one earned, five hits, struck out four, and walked four in five innings. Trey Sweeney pitched 2 and ? innings and allowed two runs, one earned, three hits, struck out one, and walked two batters. Brycen Harkins struck out the final hitter of the game. .

Hazard stunned Greenup County 7-5 in the first quarterfinal game of the day and will play St. X at 6 p.m. Friday in the first semifinal game.


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