The team that took the state baseball tournament by storm last year is back for more. Mercer County returns to Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington today for its second consecutive state tourney appearance, emboldened by the confidence of its unlikely run to the title game last year and saddled with one tough draw.
The Titans face St. Xavier, the de facto favorite, in their first-round game in the 16-team tournament at 1:30 p.m. Monday. St. Xavier was ranked No. 3 in the final regular-season coaches poll and is the only top-10 team to make it this far. The Tigers are one of only four teams in Kentucky to give up fewer than 100 runs this season, having allowed just 81 runs in 40 games (2.03 per game).
St. Xavier and Mercer are among six teams from last year’s state tournament that have returned this season. The Tigers lost a semifinal to Central Hardin, which beat the Titans in the title game the following night.
Mercer will probably be regarded as an even darker darkhorse than last year, perhaps rightfully so. This year’s Titans haven’t approached the offensive firepower of last year’s team, winning instead with pitching and defense. And they have a much tougher draw than they had a year ago, when they had no ranked teams in their four-team sub-bracket.
But they’re back, and recent history tells us it would be foolish to count them out Monday. Single-elimination baseball is a crazy thing, and no one has illustrated that better than Mercer in the last two postseasons.
* * *
Mercer’s game Monday follows an 11 a.m. game between South Warren and Central Hardin, so the 1:30 scheduled start could be pushed back a bit depending on the length of that game. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $14 for box seats behind home plate, and parking is $3 in the ballpark lot.
Mercer will be the home team and in the first-base dugout. The Mercer-St. Xavier winner will play the winner of a Monday night game between Pikeville and Bishop Brossart.
The game will be broadcast locally on WHBN-AM 1420, with streaming audio available at the station’s website, hometownlive.net.
Click here to find rosters and statistics for Mercer, St. Xavier and the other teams in the field, as well as links to live audio and stats and postgame box scores.
And of course, the Advocate will be all over it once again. We’ll be tweeting updates during the game at @amnewsonline, and there’ll be coverage at amnews.com soon after the game and Tuesday in the Advocate.