LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- St. Xavier has been considered the team to beat in Kentucky high school baseball through most of the season. After some mid-season struggles it appears they are again the favorites.
The Tigers used a six-run third to power past Ballard 8-0 in a region quarterfinal game on their home field Saturday. More importantly, with the region being played on three straight days, a team that has a plethora of pitching still has all but one of those strong arms available after getting a complete-game two-hit shutout from Senior right-hander Noah Nelson.
"You're taking them one game at a time but you're also trying to look at three games in three days and what you can do with your pitching staff to try and conserve arms and Noah did exactly what we needed ... a complete game," head coach Andy Porta said.
"We had a lull maybe ten games ago," Porta continued. "We lost two in a row and had some discussions with the kids but they've been very focused ... good practices, good ballgames. The offense is coming and pitching and defense. We're heading in the right direction. I still don't think we've played that perfect game but we're headed in the right direction."
St. Xavier sent ten to the plate and scored their six third-inning runs on five hits. They added solo runs in the fifth and seventh to push their record to 27-6. Ballard finishes the season at 17-17.
The Tigers say any pressure to win a second consecutive state title mostly comes from within.
"We talked about repeating from day one all the way back in August and we were in the locker room as we said 'no St. X team has won back-to-back'," Porta said. "We're trying to put a lot of internal pressure during the course of the season. So yes there is pressure but most of it is we're putting it on ourselves to perform and play well. It's not necessarily pressure to win although you want to win at this point ... you need to win at this point. But it's still just pressure to handle adversity. If something goes wrong can you flush it, be in the present, not worry about the future, not worry about the past but be in the present."
St. Xavier meets Manual in Sunday's 7th region semi-final. That's scheduled for 7:45 p.m. at U of L's Jim Patterson Stadium following the game between Trinity and Male.
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