St. Xavier and McCracken County won on Saturday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark to earn the first two spots in the state baseball tournament semifinals.
The Tigers knocked off West Jessamine 3-2 thanks to walk-off heroics in the bottom of the seventh. The Mustangs strung together hits in the second and sixth innings to build a four-run lead that was too much for Johnson Central to overcome in a 4-1 victory.
St. Xavier and McCracken County will meet in the first semifinal next Friday at 6 p.m.
St. Xavier 3, West Jessamine 2
The first game of the day saw the defending champs fall in dramatic fashion — a walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Colts struggled to get anything going at the plate against St. Xavier senior pitcher Adam Elliott, who did not allow a run over the first six innings.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. With runners on first and third, Samuel Mudd bunted down the third-base line to score Brandon Tucker. A West Jessamine error brought in another run.
In the top of the seventh, the Colts found new life. A single by Seth Taylor brought in Tucker Greer for West Jessamine’s first run. Spencer Blancet’s sacrifice fly scored Ryan Layne with the tying run.
St. Xavier got out of the inning without giving up another run, and the game went to the bottom of the seventh. Mudd wasted no time, hitting a leadoff homer over the left-field wall.
“I saw him hit the ball and everybody kind of went quiet,” Elliott said. “I looked out and saw the ball flying, and knew that it was gone. It was really just unbelievable.”
The walk-off home run knocked out the defending state champions and earned the Tigers a spot in the semifinals next Friday, but even the hero knows that the real goal still lies ahead.
“I was never really worried,” Mudd said. “I knew we had it in us, but we have to win two more.”
McCracken County 4, Johnson Central 1
The next quarterfinal had a bit of a slower pace, but a three-run sixth inning proved to be the difference as McCracken County pulled away.
The Mustangs struck first in the bottom of the second. Rook Ellington tripled, and catcher Derek Schneider followed with an RBI double.
McCracken County added three runs on four hits in the bottom of the sixth inning for a little insurance.
Grant Davis scored a Johnson Central run on a passed ball in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough as the Mustangs advanced to the semifinals next week.
“What can you say about the kids, they just grinded it out and hung in there together,” Mustangs Coach Geno Miller said. “We just kept swapping punches defensively. They made plays and we made plays. We were just fortunate to come out with the win.”
Semifinals at Whitaker Bank Ballpark
Friday, June 17, 6 p.m.: St. Xavier vs. McCracken Co.
Friday, June 17, 8:30 p.m.: Bullitt East-Scott Co. winner vs. Hazard-Campbell Co. winner