March 20th, 2019

St. Xavier rolls to 15-0 win in season opener

Staff Report


St. Xavier rolls to 15-0 win in season opener
File photo by Conor Revell

By Nate Bryan 

 

The St. Xavier Tigers have adopt the motto of "unfinished business" in their title defense season and they certainly took care of business on the road in their season opener Tuesday night.


St. Xavier took advantage of a young Elizabethtown squad en route to a 15-0 win over the Panthers at the Elizabethtown Sports Park.


The Tigers went 37-2 last season as they won their program's eighth KHSAA State Baseball Tournament championship. They're staying focused by trying to accomplish something that's never been done at St. Xavier: win back-to-back baseball titles.


"Obviously the goal is to win another state championship," said St. Xavier senior Ryan Nicholson, who walked twice, scored twice and had a three-run double against Elizabethtown. "You know, our school has never gone back-to-back and we want to be the first ones to do it."


Pleasure Ridge Park is the only Louisville school to accomplish the feat, winning three straight state titles from 1994-96. If successful in their defense, St. Xavier would join PRP, Harrison County (1997-98 and Owensboro (1976-77) as the only four programs to go back-to-back.


"This year, our expectations are a little bit higher," Nicholson said. "Everyone's watching out for us and we'll be seen more nationally. But I think our baseball IQ is higher. We have a lot of seniors, but it's still a new team with new chemistry."


Voting for the first Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association poll of the season ended Tuesday afternoon and the Tigers should be on top when the poll is released later this month. St. Xavier is also in the top 10 of a pair of national rankings.


"We are proud of those rankings, but we know it doesn't mean anything. You still gotta play on the field," said St. Xavier coach Andy Porta. "We do appreciate it and we take pride in it. It means the kids are working hard and we're starting to gain respect, but those rankings don't mean squat (this early). They don't mean a thing."


With players such as Nicholson (reigning state tournament Most Valuable Player) and Cincinnati signee Cam Scheler back, the Tigers have plenty of returning stars to lead the way. They also have some new starters in senior Noah Nelson (0-for-0 against Elizabethtown with two sacs, a hit by pitch, one run and two RBIs in three plate appearances) and junior Nathan Waldridge (1-for-2 on Tuesday with a walk and a three-run triple).


"It was good. I was just looking for something to hit and something I could stay back on and drive," Waldridge said. "With the seniors we had graduate last year, I just kind of have to fill their shoes and take on a bigger role this year. It should be a fun ride."


Tuesday was also a fun ride for Tigers such as seniors Xander Adams (single, RBI, two runs), Aric Lyons (three runs, one RBI, one single), Noah Nelson (two RBIs, one run), Brandon Tucker (one run, two RBIs) and Leighton Keller (two runs, one RBI, one double).


Elizabethtown is playing its home games at the Sports Park as it awaits new sod, which it hopes to unveil next month against district rival Central Hardin.


Central Hardin, right down Ring Road from the Sports Park, is also the alma mater of both Elizabethtown head coach Steve Delabar and St. Xavier assistant coach Ben Cottrell.


"Oh man, it was great to see him," said Delabar, a former Major League All-Star relief pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays. "When you get to talking to guys, especially with the club that (Cottrell) has, I was happy to see him."


Elizabethtown started five underclassmen against St. Xavier and is younger than most seasons. It didn't help Jackson Webb (EKU-bound catcher) and three-sport starter Clay Games (pitcher) both had season-ending surgeries before the season ever began.


Still, Delabar wanted his young squad to get an up-close look at one of the state's, if not nation's, elite teams.


"Knowing where E'town has been in the past and getting them back to up top where they need to be, they need to see teams like that," Delabar said. "And play against them to know that they're just baseball players just like we are. Now they're a little bit ahead of us, but there's no reason we can build up to their stature one of these days."


 

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