High School Sports

St. Xavier blessed with three Division I pitchers

Whenever anybody starts to complain about the weather fouling up the high school baseball and softball playoffs, they should think about tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo. That will put things in perspective.

■ What it's like to have three Division I pitchers on your high school baseball team? "It's a good little luxury," St. Xavier Coach John Jefferson said of his well-armed staff that includes Western Kentucky University signees Matt Spalding and Ian Tompkins, and UK signee Ryan Loehnert. The Tigers also have a terrific closer in Zach Clooney, who's headed for Olney Central, a junior college in Illinois.

Spalding, a right-hander, throws smoke — a fastball consistently in the low 90s. He has a 1.80 earned run average, with 60 strikeouts and 18 walks in 52 innings. "He's getting a lot of looks from pro scouts," Jefferson said.

Tompkins, a lefty, has "incredible movement on his ball" that Jefferson said has batters flailing away. Tompkins struck out 15 of the 17 Oldham County batters he faced last week. He got roughed up in a loss to Male in the district finals Wednesday night, but he went into that game with a 2.10 ERA, and 90 K's in 46 innings.

Loehnert, a righty, has been hampered by shoulder problems most of the season and has thrown only 14 innings. But he's been getting more work in recent weeks, and Jefferson expects to use him, even if it's just in relief, in the post-season.

Loehnert and Tompkins also play in the outfield.

St. X sometimes has trouble generating offense, which can leave its pitchers helpless. "We feel if we score three runs, we're usually going to have the opportunity to win," Jefferson said. "Pitching usually keeps us in the game, but we need to make something happen with our bats."

St. X (24-9), No. 2 in the state, hopes to make it to the state tournament for the first time since 2006. It would be a nice way for Jefferson to bow out. He's retiring after five years as the Tigers' head coach (and 13 overall).

■ Lawrence County senior pitcher Chandler Shepherd, who has signed with UK, had 18 strikeouts while throwing a one-hitter in a 1-0 win over Magoffin County in district play Wednesday night.

■ Clay County's Tanner Hensley hit a grand slam in his last at-bat against McCreary Central last week. In the Tigers' next game against Middlesboro, Hensley homered in his first three plate appearances, giving him 10 this season. Clay County senior catcher John Wilson, meanwhile, will sign with EKU on Friday. Wilson is hitting .512 with seven homers and 49 RBI. He's struck out only four times in 30 games. Wilson has a 4-0 pitching record. He helped Clay County to the 2010 state tournament.

■ Lexington Catholic alum Justin Riddell has had a great senior season at the University of Cincinnati. He's fifth in the Big East in hitting (.353), second in RBI (67), sixth in homers (nine) and seventh in doubles (17).

■ Former Lafayette baseball player Chad Warner is transferring from Transylvania to Asbury.

■ Western Kentucky University pitcher Justin Hageman has been named freshman of the year in the Sun Belt Conference. Hageman, who led Hopkinsville to the state tournament last spring, had an 8-5 record for WKU with a 3.22 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 96 innings.

■ Former Henderson County baseball coach B.T. (Bill Tom) Wayne died Sunday after a battle with cancer. He coached the Colonels for 32 years and won 702 games, including the 2000 state championship. He was a charter member (1997) of the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. I covered Mr. Wayne's teams when I worked in Henderson in the mid-1970s, and kept in touch with him over the years. He was a true baseball guy, a great coach and a wonderful person. Just a week before he died, the school board voted to name Henderson County's baseball field "B.T. Wayne Stadium."

■ Christian County promoted assistant Tyler Smithhart to be its new boys' basketball coach. He will succeed Kerry Stovall, who stepped down a few weeks after the Colonels won the state title. Smithhart, 27, is a 2002 graduate of Henderson County who played college hoops at Transylvania. He was also freshman coach at Henry Clay for two seasons.

■ Covington Catholic has hired Scott Ruthsatz to replace Mike Listerman as its boys' basketball coach. Ruthsatz was an assistant at national powerhouse St. Anthony (N.J.) last season. His background includes a stint as head coach at a Catholic high school in Sandusky, Ohio, where he still owns a business.

■ Bellevue named Jim Hicks its new boys' basketball coach. He is not to be confused with Conner Coach Jim Hicks or Grant County Coach Jim Hicks. Then again, it will be hard not to confuse three boys' hoops coaches with the same name in the same area of the state.

■ The Kentucky-Indiana all-star basketball games are just two weeks away. Kentucky boys' coach Glen Drury will test his team, led by Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey of state champ Chrisitan County, in a scrimmage against a group of junior all-stars at Anderson County June 6 at 6:30. The junior stars will include Wes Kimball of Henry Clay, Taylor Barnette of Lexington Christian, Jay Johnson of Woodford County, Tyler Black of Mason County, and D.J Townsend and Adam Wing of state runner-up Rowan County.

■ Former Lexington Catholic basketball star Vee Sanford is transferring from Georgetown University to Dayton. The 6-3 guard played sparingly for the Hoyas the last two years. He will sit out next season and have two years of eligibility left. Vince Sanford, Vee's father, said Boston College, Kent State, Western Kentucky and Marshall were among other schools interested in his son, but he chose Dayton because of new coach Archie Miller. Miller had been an assistant at Arizona where his brother Sean is head coach. Even though Dayton is closer to home, Vince said he didn't worry about that. "I just wanted Vee to go where he'd be happy and have the opportunity to play."

■ Owensboro Catholic's Lauryn Yevincy, who made 60 threes this past season, will play college hoops at Midway.

■ Al Northington, who coached Iroquois to the girls' state basketball title in 2009, is the new coach at Moore.

■ Jermaine Jackson of Iroquois, a second-team all-stater, will play college hoops at Florida Tech.

■ To clarify KHSAA actions against Russell and Bath County following a fight that broke out during their baseball game a few weeks ago, the schools were not placed on probation. Several players were suspended.

■ USA Today recently ran a story about whether high school basketball should adopt a shot clock. Oak Hill Academy Coach Steve Smith, who is from Wilmore, was quoted as saying a shot clock in high school would help prepare players to deal with it in college. But Smith conceded that slow-paced hoops can be exciting, and noted Henry Clay's 35-33 triple-overtime victory over Carlisle County in the 1983 state finals. "It was one of the most exciting games I've ever seen. It was a great game to watch, but those games are few and far between. Most slowdown games aren't like that."

■ Former Henry Clay all-city soccer player Leah Volk has made a name for herself in another sport: sailing. A senior at Georgetown University, Volk is captain of the Hoyas' sailing team, which has won seven national titles, and is in contention for more this spring in team and co-ed racing. Volk has been named to the 2011 United States Olympic Development Team and is ranked among the top 100 sailors in the world.

■ Ben Goldey's four goals led Paul Laurence Dunbar to a 9-6 win over Ballard in the Division II finals of the Kentucky Lacrosse Association boys' state tournament.

■ Derek Perkins, a former swimmer at Scott County and UK, has been named "rising assistant coach of the year" by collegeswimming.com. In his two years at Clemson, Perkins faced huge challenges. In April 2010, the school announced it was phasing out the swimming program, which led to a mass exodus of swimmers and coaches. But Perkins stayed, and head coach Christopher Ip credited him for helping the Tigers to the best season in school history. Perkins is now looking to catch on with another college program.