St. Xavier pitcher Sam Melchior started but didn't get to finish the Tigers' rain-interrupted win over Male in the 7th Region finals last week.
Afterward, St. X Coach Andy Porta told Melchior not to be discouraged, that he'd get a chance to shine in the Kentucky National Insurance/KHSAA State Tournament.
Sure enough, Melchior starred on the mound in leading the third-rated Tigers to a 4-0 victory over Mercer County at Whitaker Bank Ballpark on Monday.
The junior right-hander threw a complete-game one-hitter, with nine strikeouts and one walk against last year's state runners-up.
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"Sam's done that all year long," Porta said. "You can't ask for more out of him. He was dominating."
Melchior said he had command of his pitches, especially keeping his fastball low and away. "My slider was working well, too," he added.
Mercer County's only threat came in the third. Jon Banks led off with a single and Austin Horn drew a one-out walk. But Melchior got an inning-ending double play, and retired the last 13 batters he faced.
St. X's hitters, meanwhile, were having trouble getting to Titans' sophomore J.T. Long. He blanked the Tigers through five innings, using his change-up and curveball to keep them off-kilter.
"It was getting real antsy there," Porta said of his team's offensive struggles.
St. X finally broke through in the sixth. After Austin Clemons' lead-off walk, Andrew Willinger blasted a home run — his sixth of the year — to make it 2-0.
"I was locked in the whole game," said Willinger, who had a double in the fourth.
Long credited Willinger for pouncing on a bad pitch and sending it over the left-field wall. "I ran a change-up up and in on him, and he got a hold of it," Long said. "That's what good hitters will do."
St. X added two more runs in the inning on Joshua Osborne's single, a throwing error, and a squeeze bunt by Zach Montgomery.
Melchior was happy to have the run support.
"When (Willinger) hit that bomb, I definitely took a sigh of relief," he said.
Mercer County Coach Jeremy Shope said Melchior was "the real deal. He painted the black with his fastball, and had a good curveball, too."
Shope also took it as a compliment that St. X "had to throw their best against us. They had to run their big gun out there."
Shope was also proud of the way his Titans, rebuilt from last year, defied the odds and repeated as 12th Region champs.
"This was a special senior class to be able to get back here," he said. "It was a special accomplishment."
St. Xavier 000 004 0—4 4 0
Mercer County 000 000 0—0 1 3
Sam Melchior and Zach Montgomery. J.T. Long and Alex Guay. 2B—Andrew Willinger (X). HR—Willinger (X).
Records—St. X 30-11; Mercer County 23-13.