Over this past weekend, while the Queen City struggled with snow and the Musketeers basketball team dispatched the Butler Bulldogs, Xavier Baseball was putting on a strong performance in the First Pitch Invitational in Greenville, South Carolina. Although the Muskies went 1-2 on the weekend, there was plenty to build upon.
Friday – Furman 1, Xavier 0
Unlike the previous weekend, which was filled with scoring barrages, XU started the First Pitch Invitational with a pitcher's duel. Sophomore left handed pitcher Brad Kirschner pitched his heart out against Furman, throwing eight innings and only allowing one run (8.0 IP, 7 hits, 1 earned run, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts). Despite going the distance in a losing effort, Kirschner showed an impressive degree of composure and got himself out of more than one jam. After letting up a few hits in the first inning and loading the bases, he remained calm and gave the Muskies' defense a much-needed fly ball to third. Shortly thereafter, Furman freshman DH Blake Chisolm patiently took a walk and brought the game-winning run to home plate.
Unfortunately, Furman starter Matt Solter also pitched quite well. Over seven innings, he allowed only two hits and earned five strikeouts. The X-men's first hit came from leadoff man / second baseman Selby Chidemo, but was soon thwarted after a double play. The other hit, which was also a single, came from right fielder Brian Bruening, but it was not enough to generate any runs. After those opportunities, Furman's pitching started to heat up and the next nine XU batters were taken down, in order. The pitching staff's effectiveness continued when Furman reliever Elliot Warford then picked up the slack and struck out five of the last six Muskies he faced, ending the day for Xavier.
Saturday – Xavier 4, Presbyterian 3
After a Friday loss to Furman, the Muskies were determined to stem any losing streaks before they happened. Thanks to a productive third inning on Saturday, XU was able to do just that. After a couple two-run singles by first baseman Joe Forney and right fielder Brian Bruening, the Musketeers had just enough offensive production to keep Presbyterian at bay.
Senior right handed pitcher Adam Hall, who earned his first win of the season over five innings, got the start, allowed three runs, and struck out two batters en route to the victory. Presbyterian College's offense began with a run in the first inning after a single by junior Peter Johnson. The game remained quiet until the Muskies' big third inning (thanks to the RBIs from Forney and Bruening). The Presbyterian Blue Hose refused to go quietly and grabbed two more runs in the top of the fifth inning before Xavier starter Adam Hall regained control and ended the inning. After those first five frames, Hall gave way to freshman Zac Lowther, who was equally impressive. Lowther entered the game in the sixth inning and pitched three scoreless innings to close the door for XU. Over that period, he gave up only one hit and nabbed a strikeout. In the final inning, coach Scott Googins called upon senior righty Jacob Bodner, who struck out two of the three batters in the ninth and grabbed his first ever save. On the other hand, Presbyterian right-handed pitcher David Sauer earned his first loss of the season after going five innings, allowing four runs (three earned), and giving up nine hits.
Sunday – Indiana 7, Xavier 6
One of the calling cards of the short-lived Muskies-Hoosier rivalry has been tight games. After winning a nail-biter over Indiana in Fall Ball, Xavier fell slightly short against Top 25 Indiana on Sunday. Once the Hoosiers posted four runs in the first inning, it seemed that it might be a long day for the X-men. Fortunately, XU came back with a vengeance and posted runs in the second (Joe Forney groundout scored Patrick Jones), fourth (Brian Bruening single to right field score last week's Big East Player of the Week Andre Jernigan), fifth (Patrick Jones scored center fielder Tim O'Conner), and seventh innings (IU error brought home Daniel Rizzie and Andre Jernigan drove DH Derek Hasenbeck home with a sacrifice fly) to make it a close game. By the time Bruening scored following a David Mortion RBI in the eighth inning, the score was tied up at 6-6.
Xavier senior righty Eric Stiene started the game and gave up the initial four-run onslaught to IU. Before giving the ball to sophomore Greg Jacknewitz, Stiene gave up one additional run in the third. Jacknewitz, conversely, pitched five innings of relief and performed well – allowing just one run and four hits on the day. The Hoosiers were not able to gain traction against Jacknewitz in the eighth and both teams entered the final frame with the game dead even. The Muskies started strong, getting Daniel Rizzie in scoring position after a single and sacrifice grounder by Hasenbeck. Unfortunately, Rizzie was left stranded after the Muskies failed to turn that display of small ball into runs. Once IU took the field in the bottom of the ninth, things got sticky for XU. In the ninth inning, senior righty Jacob Bodner relieved Jacknewitz and took the loss. After a walk and a sacrifice to move that runner to second, a Hoosier bunt and throwing error by Joe Forney brought in the winning run. Like the Opening Day victory against Army, the game came down to the very last few outs. Unfortunately, this one didn't turn out as well for the Musketeers.
This past weekend, the Muskies fell to 3-4 after the First Pitch Invitational in South Carolina. However, there was plenty of bright spots on the weekend and, as always, lots of room for improvement. Thanks for stopping by and keep on coming back to Banners on the Parkway for more XU baseball coverage all season long...