LEXINGTON, Ky. – Highlands had Kentucky’s top-ranked team and seven-time state champion right where it wanted them.
Then St. Xavier brought out the Louisville sluggers.
After Highlands fought back to a 4-4 tie in the fourth inning, University of Cincinnati commit Ryan Nicholson blasted a two-run homer in the fifth and Andrew Littlefield's three-run homer in sixth sent the Bluebirds reeling to a 10-6 loss in the state championship game Saturday night.
“It’s a group I'm so proud of,” Highlands coach Jeremy Baioni said after consoling his players. “They fight and fight and fight. They really don't get too bent out of shape. You saw it in the last inning, still fighting and putting together great ABs. I’m proud of the guys and the seniors who led.”
Highlands breathed a last gasp in the seventh when Orioles' fourth-round pick Drew Rom hit a two-run homer with no outs, but the rally ended there.
Highlands put three players on the All-Tournament team – Rom, Ethan Kavanagh and Sam Hennigan.
St. Xavier won its eighth title and third in the last five years. Nicholson, a junior southpaw, was named tournament MVP. He had three RBI Saturday and pitched two victories in the tournament, including a complete-game 3-0 win over Hazard in the semifinals Friday night.