LEXINGTON — Yeah, the St. Xavier High School baseball team can swing the bats a little too.
Built on solid throwing and defense, the Tigers had 10 hits — including three triples and two doubles — in a 13-0 rout of Central Hardin on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop State Tournament at the University of Kentucky’s Kentucky Proud Park.
The 13 points was a season high for St. X, which accomplished the feat three more times during the regular season.
“We’re very streaky,” junior third baseman Cooper Smith said. “If someone starts a hot inning, I feel like we keep going with that. We really feed off each other in the hitting aspect. Our throwing and defense have been exactly what we’ve expected all year, so it’s normal that (offense) is neglected, I guess.
Of the 16 teams to reach the state tournament, St. X ranked 14th in points per game at 6.7. But the Tigers are getting contributions up and down the lineup now, as seven of nine starters had at least one hit on Saturday.
“Look what they did at Trinity (11-0 win in the Seventh Region final) and then they put us 13 points today,” said Central Hardin coach Todd Thompson. “We tried to play them well. Wherever we put our guys, they were hitting the ball where we weren’t. It was just one of those days.
Chasing their ninth overall state title and fourth since 2014, No. 3-ranked St. X (32-10) advanced to face the winner of Campbell County and McCracken County in the half. -Friday final at 6:30 p.m. The championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.
If the offense continues to increase, St. X could snag another championship banner.
“I feel like we’re definitely peaking at the right time,” said Smith, a cornerback on St.X Class 6A Championship Football Team last fall. “I’m a football guy, and the coach (Kevin Wallace) always says, ‘Be your best when your best is needed.’ I feel like our baseball team has really been that so far.
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The Tigers left little doubt on Saturday, scoring every frame of a game that was called off after five innings due to the leniency rule.
Ryan Comella’s two-run single started the scoring in the first inning before the Tigers accomplished a rare feat – back-to-back triples from Smith, Jake Bennett and Jake Gregor – in a second three-run.
Tigers coach Andy Porta was pleased with his hitters’ approaches during the three-bagger shoot-off.
“It was also cool that none of them were taken out,” Porta said. “They were in the middle and (opposite field).”
Smith and Comella both went 2 for 3 to lead the St. X offense.
Sophomore right-hander Jake Gregor (4-3), a University of Louisville draftee, picked up the win. He allowed five hits and retired one of four innings. Senior Quinten Shewmaker struck out two in a scoreless fifth.
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The Tigers also had their 34th double play of the season, tying the state record they set in 2017.
Add it all up and Porta admitted his team was playing well.
But a head coach is never completely satisfied.
“Our strength is throwing and defending, but (attacking) is definitely nice,” Porta said. “We tell our guys down the line, ‘We don’t need you to go 2-for-3, 3-for-4. I just need you to be on base and maybe a hit. per game.’ I’m happy with that.
“There is still room for improvement, but I cannot be disappointed at all.”
ST. XAVIER 231 25 – 13 10 1
HARDIN CENTRAL 000 00 – 0 7 0
WP- Jake Gregor (4-3). LP- Caden Alvey (6-4).
Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; [email protected]; Twitter: @kyhighs.