May 22nd, 2018

Errors hurt as Male upsets St. X in district final

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer


Errors hurt as Male upsets St. X in district final
photo by Eric Thorne

The St. Xavier baseball team rallied three times from deficits, but ultimately couldn’t recover from Trevor Campbell’s 2-run home run in the sixth inning that lifted Male to a 7-5 victory in the 26th District championship game Tuesday at Male.

The two teams have met in the championship game the past eight seasons with the series tied 4-4, but the Bulldogs victory this season snapped a three-year winning streak by St. X.

“Yes it feels really good to get this one,” said first-year Male coach Jacob Fiorella. “Every game is a close one with those guys, but we could never quite get them. Tonight we scored 3 runs early and they battled back and that makes you wonder how the heck is it going to go. They kept throwing punches and we answered.”

The Tigers (30-2) ranked No. 1 in the Kentucky Baseball Coaches Association poll defeated Male 5-3 earlier this season.

“We kept playing come back, but we could just never got of the hump the whole game,” St. X coach Andy Porta said. “We’d spot them runs, come back and tie them, but we put zero’s on the scoreboard in the late innings.”

Male (20-7) came out swinging to open the game as Todd Jackson sent a home run over the left field wall driving home John Ullom. Grant Knipp singled to left and Cameron Singer reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Nicholson.

The second Tiger error of the inning followed when catcher Chase Patton overthrew second on an steal attempt by pinch runner Jordan Levey allowing Knipp to race home.

Undeterred St. X  got singles from Aric Lyons and Trey Sweeney before Cameron Scheler drew a walk to set up a two-run double from Andrew Littlefield. Nicholson plated Sweeney with his fielder’s choice making it 3-3.

Male added a run in the third on a double down the right field line by Singer that drove in Jackson giving the Bulldogs a 4-3 advantage.

Porta called on Evan Burnett to get some innings in and finish out the game on the mound.

Male would promptly add a run in the fourth inning when Tristin Garcia walked, moved to second on a single by Campbell and scored on a hit to right-centerfield by Ullom.

The Tigers answered right back in the bottom of the inning off a walk to Alex Adams, followed by Leighton Keller being hit by a pitch from Connor Knoop. Lyons then drove in both with a low liner to right field that Matt Ernst let roll under his glove making it 5-5.

That set the stage for Campbell’s game winner.

“That home run is going to happen and out there, but you have to be emotionless and keep pitching to the next batter and the next batter and the next batter,” Burnett said. “Our bats were good, but we couldn’t get a string of hits going in the late innings.”

Fiorella then went to his ace Travis Simpson who set down 9 of the next 10 hitters to seal the victory.

“It was very strange game with a bunch of runs being scored which is kind of unusal for games between us,” Burnett said. “Records and this game doesn’t really matter as coach Porta said. I just think they came out and quickly scored those three runs, and we were obviously flat. We battled back each time, but they got the early upper hand.”

Porta agreed saying four errors in the game and pitchers missing their locations allowed a good-hitting Male team to take advantage of his Tigers.

“Give Male a lot of credit and thankfully it didn’t really count against us, but from here on it's do or die,” Porta said. “We should  have been ready because we practiced on the grass for three or four days, and maybe it’s my fault for working us so hard yesterday.”

Fiorella admitted he was worried about a final St. X rally.

“They have had so many walk-off late game wins this year and one run victories that I told our guys in the seventh inning that they were not going to go away,” Fiorella said. “I told our AD today I thought it would take six runs to win, and while they only got five I’m glad we had seven.”

Both teams advance to the Seventh Region tournament that starts next Monday with Male hosting a district runner-up while St. X must travel to a district winner. The drawing will be held Saturday.

“Its just like it was in 2014 when we lost to Male, had to go to Eastern and that started us on seven wins that led us to the state title,” Porta said. “In 2016 we won the district and then won seven games and the state title. Everyone is in the same boat and has to win the same number of games, but it just takes a different path sometimes.”

However the Tigers know they must improve on their focus and fielding.

“Some guys may have had the mentality that we are really great team and have the upper hand, but this game humbles us a little bit and shows we must regroup and focus on the next seven to win a state championship,” Burnett said. “Errors won’t win games, especially four in a game.”

Burnett said it is up to the four senior players on the team to gather up to the juniors and sophomores on the team to focus on not losing now or the season will come to an abrupt end.

“We just tell them it doesn’t feel like its going to hurt when the season doesn’t end in a game like this, but it’s going to definitely hurt when it does end if you don’t win from here on out.”

 

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