No. 1 Musketeers (39-1) face St. X in first round of state tourney
For those unfamiliar with the style of the highly regarded Greenup County High School baseball team, St. Xavier coach Andy Porta provided a colorful comparison for the Louisville locals.
“They’re like Pleasure Ridge Park or Christian Academy on steroids,” Porta said. “They bunt like crazy. … Everybody in the lineup bunts, whether there’s two out and the bases loaded or there’s nobody on.
“We saw them up 8-0 in the bottom of the second inning and their (third) hitter lays down a bunt down the third-base line. Up here some might consider that questionable or bush league. But that’s the way they play. … They do some crazy and unorthodox things, but it’s working for them.”
And it’s helped the Musketeers enjoy a remarkable season.
MORE COVERAGE | Coaches debate merits of new format for state tournament
Greenup County (39-1) is ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 6 in the nation by USA Today and will face St. Xavier (25-12) at 6 p.m. Thursday in a highly anticipated first-round game of the Rawlings/KHSAA State Tournament at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington, Ky.
The Musketeers won their first 33 games this season – third-longest winning streak in state history – before falling to East Jessamine 2-1 on May 14 in the Fayette County Invitational Tournament. They’ve won six straight games since then by a combined score of 55-11.
Coach Greg Logan said he doesn’t follow the unwritten rules of baseball’s “book” and downplayed any notion of his team having an unorthodox style – sort of.
“If we have to triple steal or have to throw a blooper pitcher to win, we may do that,” he said. “I will say this: If you can’t bunt the baseball, you’re probably not playing at Greenup County.”
Logan has plenty of talent to rely on as well, as senior catcher Brody Shoupe has signed with Morehead State and sophomore shortstop Gage Hughes has committed to Cincinnati. Hughes leads the team in batting average (.413), home runs (eight), RBIs (55) and runs scored (48).
The pitching staff is led by junior Tristan Downing (9-0, 0.66 ERA), sophomore Ryan Lambert (8-0, 0.30 ERA), and senior Christian Wireman (8-0, 1.52 ERA).
“We don’t have any 90-mile-per-hour or upper-80s guys,” Logan said. “We know that’s the hand we’re dealt with, and we do the best we can with that. We’re very good defensively up the middle from our catcher to our center fielder. … These kids take the field and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can play with any team out there.”
No. 16 St. Xavier (25-12) is in the state tournament for the fifth time in six years, having won the title in 2014.
MORE COVERAGE | Previewing the St. Xavier Tigers
The Tigers rely on defense and a pitching staff led by a pair of seniors headed to the University of Louisville – right-hander Daniel Fischer (5-2, 1.49 ERA) and left-hander Adam Elliott (4-2, 1.04). Porta said he was leaning toward starting Fischer against Greenup County.
Porta called the St. X-Greenup County matchup “the marquee game” of the first round.
“I think some people look at our 25-12 record and might think we’re no good, but most would agree that if you’re coming out of Louisville that you have to be a solid team,” Porta said. “I think it’s cool this is a 6 o’clock game and you don’t have to worry about it being in the middle of the day and people saying they can’t get off work.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
RAWLINGS/KHSAA STATE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
* When: Thursday-June 18.
* Where: Whitaker Bank Ballpark, Lexington, Ky.
* Tickets: $14 in home-plate area, $10 general admission for each two-game session.
* Parking: $3.
* Thursday – Highlands (23-17) vs. Johnson Central (32-9), 11 a.m.; Elizabethtown (28-12) vs. McCracken County (35-5), 1:30 p.m.; St. Xavier (25-12) vs. Greenup County (39-1), 6 p.m.; Bowling Green (31-9) vs. West Jessamine (31-8), 8:30 p.m.
* Friday – North Laurel (29-10) vs. Hazard (29-11), 11 a.m.; Bullitt East (26-10) vs. Oldham County (30-7), 1:30 p.m.; Caldwell County (31-5) vs. Scott County (27-10), 6 p.m.; Ohio County (23-14) vs. Campbell County (26-10), 8:30 p.m.
* Saturday – Bowling Green-West Jessamine winner vs. St. Xavier-Greenup County winner, 11 a.m.; Highlands-Johnson Central winner vs. Elizabethtown-McCracken County winner, 1:30 p.m.; Caldwell County-Scott County winner vs. Bullitt East-Oldham County winner, 6 p.m.; Ohio County-Campbell County winner vs. North Laurel-Hazard winner, 8:30 p.m.
* Friday, June 17 – Semifinals at 6 and 8:30 p.m.
* Saturday, June 18 – Final at 7 p.m.