The top two teams in the state of Kentucky square off Thursday in a big early season test for both teams. The game pits the top team from Louisville (#26 St.Xavier) against the top team from Lexington (Lexington Catholic).
In last year’s contest, St. Xavier took a 3-1 lead into the 7th behind starter LHP Ian Tompkins, before Catholic came back with three runs and a come from behind 4-3 victory.
Thompkins, who will start again on Thursday, has been lights out so far this season giving up only one hit in ten innings and striking out 20. The Western Kentucky commit is just one of the top-level arms that give St. Xavier the best pitching in Kentucky and possibly the nation. Fellow WKU commit RHP Matt Spalding and his 94 mph fastball is rated #127 in the 2011 class and has a chance to be a high draft pick. Olney Central (IL) CC commit RHP Zach Clooney give the Tigers another upper 80s arm.
Clooney will most likely relieve Thursday, after picking up a win in a 4-3 victory over Lexington Christian and a save against Perry Meridian (IN). St. X is 5-0 on the year, including four straight shutouts.
Lexington Catholic will counter with their ace, RHP Taylor Martin. The Kentucky commit will be making his 2011 debut after the Lexington Catholic basketball team season ended last week. Catholic coach Taylor Brooks knows that control will be a big factor in the early season for Martin.
“The big key for Taylor to have a good outing is to locate and be able to throw all of his pitches at any time. With the game having national implications, he needs to approach it as just another game and stay within himself.”
RHP Tyler Arthur and RHP RJ Carroll will throw in relief for the Knights who come into the game 3-1 after a 12-2 win over Lexington Christian Tuesday.
Brooks will look for junior SS Will Hurt, a Coastal Carolina commit, to set the tone from the leadoff spot, and use his speed to his advantage. C Tyler Jackson and OF Tyler Wells have provided the pop in the middle of the lineup with Wells leading the team in RBI.
St. X is led on offense by senior SS Michael Hellmueller, who Coach John Jefferson refers to as the most underrated player in the state.
“I can’t remember the last time he made an error and he already has one game winning, walk-off RBI this year. He is the heart and soul of our team as our captain.”
Other players Jefferson and the Tigers will count on are CF Jake Johnson and DH Ryan Loehnert, who have been very effective in the early going, along with seniors Pete Eddings and Shaun Johnston.
Both coaches know how important this game is and know it might not be the only matchup of the year.
“This game means a lot due to the Louisville/Lexington rivalry,” says Jefferson. “We know to get to the state, we are going to have to go through Lexington Catholic. This is a good measuring stick for where we are.”
Brooks agrees, “Anytime St. X and Lexington Catholic play it is a big game for our two programs, especially in Kentucky, But with this being the National Game of the Week, it does raise the bar some. St. X has gotten a lot of publicity nationwide this year, so it is an opportunity for our program to make a big statement. It is going to be a war and a great game. It will be a special night for both programs.
Check back Friday for the Game of the Week recap.
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