As the skies opened Thursday morning, there was some talk that St. Xavier might postpone its baseball game with North Bullitt. But coach Andy Porta would have none of it.
Turns out he was rewarded for his perseverance as the host Tigers, the No. 2 team in the state baseball coaches’ poll, scratched out a 2-1 walk-off victory over the No. 13 Eagles. The winning run scored on a throwing error by catcher Chance Egnor as he tried for an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
Porta wanted to get the game in because the defending state champions scheduled games against all four teams they faced last year in Lexington. On Thursday, they had a tougher time against the Eagles, who they knocked off 13-4 in last year’s state semifinal.
“We need to play this game,” said Porta, referring to a conversation he had earlier in the day. “We knew going in they are a very good team.”
The Tigers (20-7) jumped out early off Eagles starter Ryan Henson. Leadoff hitter Adam Elliott ripped a triple to rightcenter and scored on Aaron Grammer’s groundout.
The Eagles (20-6) tied it in the fifth. Henson led off with a walk, but was retired on Blake Benz’ fielder’s choice. Daulton Walls scored Benz on a triple to leftcenter off starter Cam Revelette. Walls tried to score as well as the Tigers had some trouble with the relay throw, but he was thrown out as he stumbled to the plate.
While Revelette only allowed two hits, he walked three and hit another batter. That forced Porta to replace him after five with Avery Lane (1-1).
While Lane pitched two innings of shutout ball, his biggest contribution came in the bottom of the seventh. After Kurt Ramser lined a one-out single off the first base bag and stole second, Lane battled through a nine-pitch at bat. He finally ripped a single to left, which put the winning run 90 feet away.
“I just knew I had to put something in play, something to move the runner over,” said Lane, who was also battling an injury to his right toe.
With runners on the corners, Eagles coach Brian Wise opted to walk Elliott, setting up force plays at every base. As the infield gathered at the mound, Wise instructed his team to go for the double play if they had a chance.
Grammer hit a comebacker right to Henson, who threw home to get Ramser. Egnor threw down to first to end the threat, but he couldn’t get the ball around the hustling runner. That allowed Grant Wessling, the courtesy runner for Lane, to score from second and end the game.
While disappointed with the loss, Wise said he felt his team erased the ghosts of last year’s season-ending loss and showed it can get back to the state tournament.
“I hope, if nothing else, we take away that, hey, we can compete,” Wise said.