April 13th, 2012

St. Xavier Defeats Oldham Co. In Title Game

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

St. Xavier Defeats Oldham Co. In Title Game
photo by Paul Najjar

Bats starting to heat up for the Tigers

The St. Xavier Tigers finished a clean sweep of the competition in the Derby City Classic with a 4-1 win in the championship game over Oldham County Thursday evening at Derby City Field. For the tournament, St. X outscored their four opponents 33-6.

On this chilly spring evening the Tigers put 13 runners on base as they pounded out nine hits, earned two walks and had two batters hit by a pitch. It was another solid performance from a lineup that has been looking for some consistency this season.

“Since the DeSales game (last Saturday) the bats have slowly come around,” remarked St. X head coach Andy Porta. “It’s been pitching and defense and then we were on the short end of a couple of one run ball games. The pitching is still doing a very good job, but now the bats are starting to pick up and we’re becoming a well-rounded team.”

And while the hitting is picking up for the Tigers, there’s no denying that their pitching is a strong suit. Starter Matt Lasley pitched five innings of scoreless ball, allowing only three hits and striking out three. Lasley earned the win in his first start. The one drawback to his start: he allowed four walks.

“That’s his first start and I really liked how he performed,” said Porta. “He needed some work, needed some innings and I was really pleased with what he did. I don’t think he threw many first pitch strikes and he admitted that. He came off the mound after one inning and said, ‘I need more first pitch strikes’ and I told him that he took the words right out of my mouth. We’re really stressing to all of our pitchers to get ahead in the count.”

Lasley started the game by striking out Oldham County’s smooth fielding shortstop Kyle Smith, then promptly gave up a single and a walk to put runners on first and second with one out. The Tigers’ lefty struck out cleanup hitter Garrett Shannon on a sharp breaking ball and got Tommy Shafer to end the inning with an infield fly.

The Tigers showed some promise in their half of the first inning as left fielder Conrad Ulmer singled with one out and moved to second when Jake Johnson was hit by a pitch. Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch, but Andrew Willinger struck out looking and Andrew McCormick popped out to the shortstop.

St. X got on the board in the second inning as Zach Montgomery singled and Alex Mercer followed him with a single to centerfield to put runners on the corners. Nate Stemle’s ground out to second base brought Montgomery home.

Oldham County made some noise in the fourth inning as Shannon led off with a walk and Shafer singled to right field. The Colonel’s Robert Caudill advanced both runners on a sacrifice bunt. With runners at second and third, Lasley had little margin for error. He showed some steely nerves by getting Oldham’s Ethan Crabtree to bite at his first pitch and bounce it right back to him for an easy put out. He got the next hitter, Zach Bobbitt, to do the same thing: first pitch, bounce back to Lasley for the easy put out. End of inning.

McCormick led off the bottom of the fourth with a triple to deep right field. After a Montgomery walk, Mercer stroked a single to centerfield to drive in McCormick. Sam Melchior, who was running for Montgomery, scored from third on Nate Stemle’s 5-4-3 double play. At the end of four innings, St. X enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 lead.

“I’ve been in a slump for the past week or so,” admitted McCormick. “But the coaches got me in the cage and helped me work out my swing. It felt great. Just want to keep putting the ball in play and let the hits fall.”

The Tigers tacked on a run in the fifth inning as Ulmer walked, Johnson singled and Willinger singled to load the bases. McCormick scorched a line drive to right field that was caught and Ulmer tagged for their fourth run of the game.

Jake Cleary pitched the final two innings for St. X allowing a leadoff single in the sixth, but then striking out the next three Oldham County hitters. The Colonels scored their run in the seventh inning as Smith singled with two outs and scored on A.J. Crush’s double to the left centerfield wall. Cleary got Austin Norman to strike out looking to end the game and deliver the championship to St. X.

St. X catcher Zach Montgomery, Ulmer and pitcher Colin McFarland were named to the all-tournament team with McFarland earning the MVP award.

“I knew this would be a fun week and we did a lot of team bonding this week,” said McFarland. “We’re just having fun. We wanted to go somewhere (to play during spring break), but we stayed here, had some laughs, played good baseball and won some games. Our defense is solid and we just got to keep the bats going.”

McFarland will be on the mound next Tuesday when the Tigers entertain district rival DuPont Manual. The two teams will face each other back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday. Melchior will be the scheduled starter on Wednesday.

“It’s been a great week for our team,” said Porta. “Yesterday (Wednesday), we took them bowling and had a chance to do some fun things. This is a real good group of kids and they’re developing really good team chemistry. It’s been nice to stay in town this week.

“We’ve got Mater Dei (Indiana) coming for a doubleheader on Saturday. But our biggest concern is we play Manual on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not that we’re overlooking Mater Dei, but Manual’s our district rival and seeding is based on those games.”


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