Greenup County brought the state’s No. 1 ranking into its first-round matchup with St. Xavier at the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, but the Tigers brought a not-so-secret weapon.
Senior Daniel Fischer gave a preview of what he’ll bring to the Louisville Cardinals’ pitching rotation next season, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out five to lead St. Xavier past the Musketeers 4-2.
Fischer kept Greenup hitters, who combined for a .357 team batting average in the regular season, off balance all game with a deft mixture of off-speed pitches and well-located fast balls.
St. Xavier Coach Andy Porta said Fischer was just pitching to the scouting report and doing what he’s done all year long.
“Fish was just on again,” he said. “It was basically fastball-slider early on then the third time through he really threw them for a loop with the change-up. Then he even threw some first-pitch change-ups and got them out ahead.
“They were free swingers and we had that on the scouting report … and it played out exactly how we had it.”
Fischer said that despite Greenup’s No. 1 state and No. 6 national ranking, the Tigers felt like anything but underdogs heading into the matchup.
“To be honest, that win was expected,” he said. “I don’t think rankings have anything to do with anything in high school baseball … Greenup County had a great team but I think we’re the best team they played all season.”
The Tigers jumped on Greenup County starter Ryan Lambert early as Stephen Mitchell led off the game with a double down the left-field line. Casey Simon followed with a blast to the left-center field warning track for an RBI triple and came home on an Adam Elliott groundout to give St. Xavier a two-run lead halfway through the first inning.
“It felt fantastic to get us on the board,” said Simon.
The senior shortstop echoed Fischer’s sentiment that the Tigers weren’t underdogs, saying the grind of a tough 11th Region schedule prepared St. Xavier for the postseason.
“We never worry about the ranking of the other team,” he said. “We know our strength of schedule, so we were prepared for that team and we came out here expecting to win.”
Greenup cut the lead in half in the bottom of the second after back-to-back singles from Jared Hunt and Tristian Downing and a sacrifice fly by Jaxon Keeton. But St. Xavier added a run in the third when Nick Nelson scored on a fielder’s choice and another in the fifth on a triple by Elliott followed by an RBI single by Nelson for a 4-1 Tigers lead.
The Musketeers crept closer on an odd play in the bottom of the sixth. Jared Hunt sent a hard grounder down the first-base line that ricocheted off the bag and rocketed toward the bullpen area, where it got stuck behind the rolled-up field tarp. As right fielder Sam Mudd struggled to dislodge the ball, Hunt rounded the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
After a brief discussion between Porta and the officials, the call stood. Jaxon Keeton drew Greenup’s only walk in the game in the final frame, but Fischer induced a 1-4-3 double play to hand the Musketeers just their second loss of the season and send the Tigers into Saturday’s second round.
Josh Sullivan; 859-231-3225