State Baseball Tournament: St. X rejoices in win after 33-year drought

mfields@herald-leader.comJune 7, 2014 

Since St. Xavier won a state baseball title in 1981, the school's other sports teams have garnered a staggering 99 state championships.

Thirty-three years later, the baseball Tigers finally have another title to brag about.

No. 3 St. X scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning and beat unrated Simon Kenton 5-2 in the finals of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament in front of 2,211 fans in Whitaker Bank Ballpark Saturday night.

Hayden Ford's bases-loaded single drove in Sam Springer and Andrew McCormick to make it 4-2. Miles Lee's sacrifice fly extended the lead to 5-2.

Scott Spurlock, St. X's fourth pitcher of the night, closed out Simon Kenton in the bottom of the seventh as the Tigers won their 30th game of the season and the program's sixth state title.

St. X Coach Andy Porta has been constantly reminded of the baseball team's championship drought every time he's in the St. X gym, where banners tell the tale of each sport's accomplishments.

"Baseball had five titles, but the last one was 33 years ago, while guys like swimming win every year, and golf, soccer, tennis, cross-country all win a lot, too," Porta said.

"It's tough. So to finally bust through and finally win one again is amazing."

St. X, which beat Union County, Johnson Central and North Bullitt to get to the finals for the first time since 1981, took an early 2-0 lead over Simon Kenton.

Springer scored both runs. He led off the game with a single and scored on McCormick's hit. He tripled to lead off the third and came home on a wild pitch.

Simon Kenton, blanked by Connor Underwood through three innings, tied it in the fifth off reliever Cam Revelette. Travis Bryson, Michael Mundy, Sean Lawrence and Tyler Smith all had singles in the rally.

With the game tied going to the seventh, Smith felt good about the Pioneers' chances of pulling the upset.

"We had the heart of our lineup coming up, and I thought if we were tied, we were going to win."

St. X spoiled that scenario in the top of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Aaron Grammer led off with a single and Springer reached on an error.

After a line-out, McCormick, the tournament's MVP, was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Ford came to the plate with one thing in mind: "I just knew I had to get the ball in play."

With Simon Kenton's infield drawn in, Ford hit a high bouncer up the middle for a two-run single.

Smith, the Pioneers' third baseman, said he thought his pitcher, Lawrence, was going to snag Ford's bouncer.

"When I saw it get through, it was like a stab in the heart," Smith said.

Springer had confidence that Ford would deliver.

"I knew he was going to hit it, I just didn't know where or how hard, " he said. "Once I saw where he hit it, I knew I was getting home."

Simon Kenton couldn't muster a rally in its final at-bat, but that didn't diminish the Pioneers' best baseball showing in school history.

"We played hard and played well," Coach Troy Roberts said. "They just made a few more plays than we did.

"These guys played their hearts out. They're great kids who played great baseball. I'm as proud of them as I would be of my own kids."

Porta also saluted Simon Kenton.

"You gotta give them a lot of credit. They were one game over .500 when the post-season started, but they made it all the way to the finals and battled and battled.

"They gave us all we could handle, and more."

For Porta, St. X's title couldn't be more special. He played for the Tigers (class of 1985), and was an assistant coach before taking over as head coach three years ago.

An emotional Porta noted how past St. X coaches and players over the past 33 years can share in this celebration.

"Guys like Chris Burke, Paul Byrd and Matt Anderson made millions of dollars (in the major leagues), but they didn't get an opportunity to do this," Porta said.

"It's just unbelievable. It really is."

All-Tournament Team

Griffin Wells, Hazard; Cam Shryock, South Warren; Cameron Ross, Conner; Chaynse Hill, Johnson Central; Braden Miller, South Laurel; Austin Vigeant, South Laurel; Logan Wyatt, North Bullitt; Josh Exton, North Bullitt; Michael Mundy, Simon Kenton; Tyler Smith, Simon Kenton; Tristen Marcum, Simon Kenton; Hayden Ford, St. Xavier; Connor Underwood, St. Xavier

MVP: Andrew McCormick, St. Xavier

Kentucky National Guard Best and Brightest Leadership Award: Sean Lawrence, Simon Kenton

Forcht Bank Uncommon Excellence Award: Josh Finerty, St. Xavier

Rawlings scholarship winners: Brock Lawrence, South Warren; Grant Wassom, Simon Kenton

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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