All tied up at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Ryan Nicholson’s two-run blast gave St. Xavier the lead for good as they won their eighth state baseball title in school history with a 10-6 win over Highlands, Saturday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington.
Leading 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Andrew Littlefield’s three-run shot to right gave the Tigers some much needed insurance to make it 9-4 and ensure the state trophy was headed to Louisville. The Tigers would add another in the frame before the Bluebirds’ Drew Rom made it 10-6 with a homer to right in the top of the seventh.
Highlands continued to try and mount a rally as Jackson Recht reached on a catcher’s indifference, but Brycen Harkins, who got the win after coming on in relief in the third inning, retired the next three Bluebirds batters to give St. X the victory.
After Highlands took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Tigers responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame, chasing Bluebirds starter Hunter Dreves from the game without recording an out.
Grady Cramer would settle in from there for Highlands, giving up just one run over the next four innings as the Bluebirds were able to knot things up at 4-4 in the fourth.
Sam Hennigan and Ethan Kavanagh squared the game up with RBI singles in back-to-back plate appearances in the two-run fourth for the Bluebirds.
But as they had done all tournament when either tied or facing a deficit, St. X responded, this time with Nicholson’s blast in the fifth and Littlefield’s knock in the sixth.
Prior to Littlefield’s homer, the Bluebirds threatened in the sixth, loading the bases with one out, but Harkins struck out the next two batters looking to keep the momentum on the Tigers side.
The eighth title in program history for St. X is the most among Kentucky schools, topping Owensboro, Manual and Pleasure Ridge Park, who all have six. The Tigers have won three of the last five state titles, all under coach Andy Porta.
Nicholson was named MVP of the tournament, going 3-for-4 with with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored in the championship game.
St. Xavier finished the season at 37-2, the only losses coming to McCracken County during the regular season and Louisville Male in the district championship.
Highlands season concluded at 29-14, finishing runner-up for the second time in four seasons.