The popular scouting report on St. Xavier's baseball team this season was that the Tigers had great pitching but not much offensive punch.
But No. 2 St. X got terrific pitching and terrific hitting in a 10-0 mercy-rule rout of No. 22 Clay County in the first round of the Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA State Tournament Monday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
St. X Coach John Jefferson said his players were tired of people poor-mouthing their offense, "so they kind of had a chip on their shoulder.
"They wanted to make a statement tonight, and I think they did with their bats. Clay County's not a bad team, and we put 12 hits on 'em."
Matt Spalding starred on the mound and at the plate.
The senior right-hander, who signed with Western Kentucky last fall and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 29th round last week, threw a five-inning three-hitter, striking out five and walking none.
He regularly hit 90 mph on the ballpark radar and popped a few in the mid-90s.
"Matt Spalding is unbelievable," Clay County Coach Jason Smith said. "He's a 29th-round pick, but he's really a lot higher than that. He's got a great future."
Spalding showed his stuff swinging, too. He had three hits and drove in four runs. His RBI double was part of a four-run first inning.
"It's always good to get those runs on the board early when you're pitching," Spalding said. "We really hit the ball great."
Jefferson wasn't surprised by Spalding's hitting display.
"He's really been swinging the bat lately," he said. "That's what good players do — they step up at tournament time."
St. X's offense also got big contributions from Ryan Loehnert (two hits, two runs, two RBI) and Andrew Willinger (two hits, two RBI).
The Tigers did most of the damage against Clay County starter Justin Smith. The junior left-hander, who pitched into the fourth, gave up nine hits and seven earned runs while striking out two and walking two.
"It didn't surprise me St. X hit like they did," Coach Jason Smith said. "The level they play at in their district and region, they see 84 mph pitching all the time."
Clay County senior catcher John Wilson, who has signed with Eastern Kentucky, looked comfortable competing against St. X. He stroked a double off the left-field fence and displayed a strong arm behind the plate.
Last year, Clay County lost to eventual champ Harrison County in the first round of the state tournament. Jason Smith said St. X has the same look: "In my opinion, they have a great opportunity to win a state championship."
By throwing Spalding in the first round, St. X will have him ready to go again in Saturday night's finals if it gets that far.
"We don't want to look ahead, but we're trying to win the tournament," Jefferson said.