May 25th, 2019

Tigers Take Down Bruins 8-0 in Seventh Region Tourney

Jeff Woods 

Staff Writer 

Tigers Take Down Bruins 8-0 in Seventh Region Tourney
File photo by Conor Revell

 Top-ranked St. Xavier used a six-run third inning to power past Ballard 8-0 in the first round of the Seventh Region tournament Saturday. The Tigers advance to the region semifinals Sunday night.


“They’re focused,” said St. Xavier coach Andy Porta. “We had a lull where we lost two in a row about ten games ago, but they’ve been focused ever since. Practices have been focused, and they’re handling adversity. It’s a good group with a lot of senior leadership. We’re pleased right now, but we’re just taking them one game at a time.”


The game turned in the third inning when Ballard starter Nolan Pender was taken off the mound in place of Brandon Schmitt after just 45 pitches. The Tigers responded with six runs on five hits. Schmitt faced six batters and recorded one out before getting pulled for Hunter Mathes.


“The plan was to try to go hard, soft, hard and just try to keep them off-balance,” said Ballard head coach David Trager. “We haven’t been as consistent as I would’ve liked through the season, but we’ve had some great performances by some pitchers. Nolan and Brandon threw great for us against Eastern in the district final, and we wanted to go straight back to that combination. And with the three games in a row, there are other things you need to factor in.”


The Tigers’ big inning started with a leadoff walk to Leighton Keller. Following a sac bunt and single, Trager made the pitching change. The very next batter, Keller scored on a Brandon Tucker sac bunt to put the Tigers on the board 1-0. Ryan Nicholson singled to load the bases for Noah Nelson, who hit a two-run single to left field for a 3-0 lead. Two batters later, Cam Scheler singled to score Nicholson, and then Brycen Harkins’ two-run double capped the Tigers’ third inning flurry. 


“Honestly, there were times earlier in the year where off-speed did throw us off,” said Porta. “But we’ve worked both. When we’re hitting in the cage and on the field, somebody is always throwing slow to them, and somebody is always throwing velocity to them. I feel like we’re prepared for the whole spectrum of what we could possibly see.”


St. X starter Noah Nelson held Ballard’s bats at bay, pitching a complete-game, two-hit shutout and striking out six.


“Noah has been hot for us the past couple of weeks,” said Porta. “We had a couple of contingency plans with bullpen guys, but it’s always nice not to have to go to the bullpen when you know you’re potentially trying to play three games in three days.


“He did a great job of pitching with a lead and saying ‘Here it is! You guys can hit it if you want to, but I’m not going to walk anybody else.’” 


St. X (31-5) faces Manual (22-13) in the semifinals on Sunday at 7:45 p.m. The Crimsons defeated Atherton 11-1 in the first round. All Sixth and Seventh Region semifinals games are at Jim Patterson Stadium.


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