What's the best way to start a game? If you said leadoff homer, you're correct. You'll also be thrilled to know that Rylan Bannon agrees, and he executed that plan last night against Washington. After a couple of quick outs, Andre Jernigan followed suit, drilling a fastball into the seat to stake Xavier to a 2-0 lead before Washington had stepped to the plate.
Xavier continued to pour it on in the second inning, as one-man wrecking crew David Morton drew a nine-pitch walk with two outs and nobody on. The next six Muskies reached and Rylan Bannon, Daniel Rizzie, and Joe Gellenbeck all drove in runs as part of a four-run rally that chased Washington starter Joe DeMers. When Xavier tacked on another in the third to make it 7-0, it looked like the rout was on.
Washington had other ideas. The announcing team went out of its way to remind us that the Huskies rallied from down 8-2 against Vandy to eliminate them, and then Washington went about reinforcing that point. A one-out single broke up Xavier starter Matt Kent's perfect game and his rhythm. He went on to face five more batters, walking four of them and giving up a sac fly. Trey Schramm came in to put out the fire, but the lead had been trimmed to 7-2 and the result was once again in doubt.
Schramm started the fourth with back-to-back walks and a single that some defensive misadventures turned into two runs for Washington. An RBI groundout cut the lead to 7-5, but Schramm was able to induce a pop up to get out of the inning without further damage.
From there on out, it was once again the bullpen's show. Xavier's bats went silent, finishing the day with six straight scoreless innings, but it wouldn't matter. Schramm settled in to give the Muskies some much-needed length, allowing just two more baserunners before handing the ball off in the seventh. Taylor Williams struck out the potential tying run with two down in that inning before pitching a scoreless eighth, and Garrett Schilling fanned two of the three batters he faced to get the save.
With that, Washington's involvement in the regional is over. Xavier is the final four seed still alive anywhere in the nation. The Muskies face an uphill battle to advance, needing two wins today against UCSB to survive and advance. The hottest team in the country rolls on.