Tiger Sports’ Top 5 Moments of 2013: Austin Clemons and Tiger Baseball’s Walk Off State Tournament Victory over Logan County takes Number 5

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It was an exciting season for Saint Xavier Baseball this past season, and for WSTX Sports’ top five moments of Tiger Sports in 2013, we are winding back the clock. Coming in at number five: The Tigers’ thrilling victory over the Logan County Cougars in the 2012-2013 KHSAA Baseball State Tournament.

First, let’s recount the scene; it was a regular afternoon on June 4th, 2013; at 1:30 p.m., the Saint Xavier Baseball team began their first game of the State Tournament against Logan County. St. X (#2) was heavily favored over the Cougars (#25).

The Tigers had finished an outstanding regular season with a 29-4 record, and they had just capped off district and regional titles with dramatic wins over Male and Trinity, respectively.

As the game goes on, both teams struggle to get any offense going. Tiger ace Sam Melchior and Logan County’s Caleb Bruner are dealing wicked stuff. The Cougars manage to get on base against Melchior, but fail to get any runs across on the stingy senior. Bruner continues to blank the Tigers; the mighty Tiger lineup is being no-hit. This game needed extra innings.

Fast forward to the top of the eighth inning; senior Ben Britt takes the mound for St. X, relieving Melchior, whose day was cut short by a high pitch count. Logan County manages to get a run across on Britt, and heading into the bottom of the inning, the Tigers are three outs away from an early and unexpected exit from the tournament. Tensions are tight, and the suspense is tangible. St. X had not gotten a hit off of Caleb Bruner all day; was the last half-inning going to be any different?

First up in the bottom of the eighth inning: senior center fielder Gunnar Wagoner. Bruner works a six pitch strikeout of the Tiger leadoff hitter for out number one. Next up is Andrew McCormick, who is pinch hitting for second baseman Tristan Purcell. Bruner gets two strikes on the junior, one on a foul ball that is absolutely scorched toward the Saint Xavier stands and stabbed out of the air with one hand by a fan by the name of Charles Walker, who was a then-junior tailback on the Tiger football team. Nevertheless, McCormick works a full count, but ends up flying out to shallow center.

Just like that, the Tigers are down to their final three strikes. “I thought we were dead in the water,” head coach Andy Porta would later say after the game.

The spotlight now turns to senior shortstop Nate Stemle; Stemle, a Kentucky Wesleyan commit at the time, has one of the finest gloves in the state of Kentucky, but he is not known for his prowess with the bat. He steps to the plate, and Bruner quickly pins an 0-2 count on him.

Down to their last strike, St. X survives as Stemle is hit by the next pitch. Up steps Tiger cleanup hitter Austin Clemons.

Clemons had decided to drop basketball earlier in his junior year to focus on being the catcher for the baseball team. What a decision that proved to be; long story short, Clemons had become one of the best and most feared batters in Kentucky, and now he had the chance to change the complection of the game with one swing of his bat.

Amid all the noise and pressure, Clemons remembers being more focused than nervous. “I just wanted another chance to help the team and give the next guy [in the batting order] a chance.”

Indeed, Clemons does deliver, lacing a 1-0 pitch past the Cougar third baseman and into right field for a double and the first Tiger hit of the game. Sophomore Trace Amshoff, who had replaced Stemle as a pinch runner, races to third and slides in safe, ahead of the throw.

The Tigers were now threatening, with men on first and third. With two outs, junior left fielder Sam Springer steps to the plate.

Springer is intentionally walked, loadiing the bases and creating a force out opportunity at every base. Senior Andrew Hubbs steps into the batter’s box with a chance to tie or win the game.

Hubbs works a 2-1 count and then swings at the next pitch. He sends a tricky dribbler right to the Logan County second baseman, and the Cougar second baseman bobbles the ball! Amshoff scores from third, and it is a tie game! But wait, Clemons comes firing around third and beats the throw home and the Tigers walk-off! Tigers win, Tigers win!

Unfortunately, the Tigers would lose their next game to eventual state champion Pleasure Ridge Park, but it was certainly a season that the Tigers will remember for a long time.

Clemons fondly reflects on that day: “I think the team’s resilience was shown through that game. The Logan County game will definitely be something to cherish forever, but the teammates I spent the season with are the reason the year will be most memorable.”

This coming season, Clemons will be a senior leader and an anchor of a Tiger Baseball squad that loses a lot of production as a result of graduation, especially in the rotation. However, the intangibles he learned from the guys that won’t be in the clubhouse anymore will be most important when he returns to Whitaker Bank Ballpark to take what has eluded him for three years: A state championship.

“One thing that I’ll be able to take from the older guys from last year is slowing things down during big games. It’s easy for a game to pass you by quickly if you’re not conscious of how fast things are happening.”

Clemons is excited for his senior season, and he already knows the key to the team’s success. “As a team this year, we have to trust our preparation and create good habits. When we get our shot, we can take a deep breath and remember that we aren’t doing anything we haven’t already prepared for.”

Clemons and the rest of the Tigers are chomping at the bit for the next season to begin, but for now, they, as well as every Tiger sports fan, can look back at that afternoon on June 4th, 2013, and smile.

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About Jacob Hayslip

Senior at Saint Xavier High School. Editor-In-Chief of WSTX Sports.

Posted on December 26, 2013, in Tiger Baseball, WSTX Sports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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