2011 High School Baseball Road Trip

St. Pius X Takes Down Rival St. Thomas 5-3

4/14/2011 11:34:38 PM

Box Score

HOUSTON, TX--St. Pius X and St. Thomas are two of Houston's most storied schools, dominating TAPPS baseball for decades. St. Pius has won 15 state titles, most recently in 2009, while St. Thomas has bested that with 21 titles, including last year's crown.

This year looks to be no different with the school sitting at one and two in the TAPPS rankings as well as ranking in the PG High School Texahoma regional rankings. St. Pius came into the game at #8, while St. Thomas is #19.

Thursday's matchup was the fourth of the year between the teams with St. Thomas winning the first, 10-0, before St. Pius took the next two contests by 12-7 and 5-4 counts.

In a back and forth battle, St.Pius plated two runs in the bottom of the 6th and held off a St. Thomas rally in the 7th to earn a 5-3 victory.

St. Pius X RHP Kohl Stewart made his second start of the year against the Eagles after throwing 6 2/3 innings in Pius's 5-4 extra inning win on April 5. The sophomore overcame some wildness to hold the Eagles' talented offense to two hits and three runs over 5 innings.

St. Thomas countered with freshman RHP Michael Rodgers, who responded well to the big challenge by throwing 65% of his pitches for strikes, and walking only one in 5 innings. He allowed 8 hits and three earned runs while striking out a batter.

St. Thomas got on the board first with a single run in the second inning, loading the bases on three Stewart walks before getting an RBI sac fly from DH Ross Sumbera.

St. Pius came right back with two runs in their half of the second, loading the bases before scoring on a pair of groundouts with C Kevin Kubecka and CF Kenneth Dana picking up the RBI.

Pius added a single tally in the third and the 3-1 lead held until the 5th inning when St. Thomas loaded the bases with one out. Stewart, as he did all night, made key pitches with runners on base, striking out CF Conor Biggio looking. Stewart made another quality pitch to  SS Patrick Leonard, but the Georgia commit muscled a ball over 3B Kyle Kirk's head, scoring a pair of runs and tying the game.

The score stayed deadlocked until the 6th when Nick Vutelli was hit by a pitch by St. Thomas reliever LHP Eric Jensen, setting the stage for Stewart. He promptly ripped his third hit of the night, a double past CF Conor Biggio, scoring Vutelli, plating the winning run for the Panthers. They added an insurance run as well on a St. Thomas error to make it 5-3.

"He started the batter ahead of me with a fastball, so when I saw fastball right down the middle I just threw my hands at it," said Stewart about his game winning at bat.

St. Thomas started the 7th by reaching on an error. Coach Adam Massiatte called on SS Matt Eureste to get the final three outs. After forcing 2B Harrison Ayala into a fielder's coach, Eureste hit Conor Biggio with a pitch, putting the tying run on base with Leonard coming to the plate. Eureste struck out Leonard on three pitches, the last being a nasty slider that dove into the left handed batter's box. After a walk to Cavan Biggio, Eureste struck out C Hunter Kopycinski on another slider to give Pius the 5-3 win.

Eureste worked 87-89 with his fastball in the 7th with his out pitch being a slider that sat 73-77 with hard frisbee break from his sidearm slot. While he was impressive on the mound with his low effort delivery and easy velocity, but even more so earlier in the game. The long, loose limbed shortstop showed smooth actions in the field with very good arm strength as well as easy bat speed and coverage from the left side of the plate. The senior Sam Houston State commit had three hits on the day, two to the opposite field and scored a run, in addition to picking up the save.

Stewart was named Player of the Game for his performance, pitching five innings of two hit three run ball, while going 3-3 at the plate with the game winning RBI.

The sophomore has an athletic build, with lots of room to fill, and worked 83-86 with his fastball, topping at 87. He also threw a slider at 72-75 and flashed a 74 mph changeup.  He walked six on the day and hit a batter, but did some of his best pitching with men on base.

"It was my first start in a week and a half, and I actually felt better in the stretch, with men on," Stewart said. "I knew from facing them before that they were a good fastball hitting team, so I tried to keep them off balance and build off my fastball."

Stewart and Eureste had six of the Panthers 10 hits to lead the offense, another intriguing offense prospect is 3B Kyle Kirk who showed a short swing with strength and reached base twice, with a hit and a walk.

St. Thomas had only three hits on the day but have a number of intriguing prospects for 2011 and beyond. Leonard, ranked #60 in the 2011 class, showed the tools that make him a top prospect. His swing can be long but he gets excellent extension and his strength and power potential are assets, as well as his arm strength and quickness. Leonard showed off those defensive tools with a great play in the bottom of the 6th, making a diving stop at full extension on a one-hopper up the middle, held the runner at third, and made a strong throw to first from his knees.

Former Astro great and member of the 3000 hit club Craig Biggio serves as St. Thomas coach and has two sons that are standouts on the team. Senior Conor played OF, has a 5'8, 150 pound frame akin to his father, showing quickness in his bat from the left side and a patient approach at the plate. He is committed to play at Notre Dame next year.

Cavan, a sophomore, played 3B, showing smooth fielding actions and an accurate arm with plenty of strength. He has a bigger build than his brother and father, standing at 6'1, 170 with room to grow. He showed bat quickness on a line drive single to CF to lead off the 4th as well as a glimpse of his future power with a fly ball to RF that he just missed launching out of the yard with an impressive hang time of 6.69.

C Hunter Kopycinski's arm strength really stood out in warmups and he had a few chances to show it off during the game. Kopycinski easily cut down two Panther runners trying to steal, registering a pop time of 1.79 on the first. His transfer and release are very quick, and that, combined with the arm strength will make life tough on any runners attempting to steal on him.

The win moves St. Pius X to 31-4 on the year, while St. Thomas drops to 19-10. Even though Pius had already clinched the district title the rivalry game loomed big as Pius needed the win to clinch the season series. There is a good chance these teams could meet for a 5th time in the state championship as they did a year ago.

The PG High School Baseball Road Trip continues tomorrow in Owasso, OK for the highly anticipated High School Game of the Year between Oklahoma powerhouses Owasso and Broken Arrow. Owasso, ranked #2 in the PG High School National HS Rankings will throw likely early first round pick RHP Dylan Bundy, while Broken Arrow, ranked #3 will counter with their own highly touted and potential early first round pick RHP Archie Bradley.

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