Late last night, about the same time the Cleveland Cavaliers put the final touches on their capitulation to Golden State, Xavier baseball grabbed the win they needed to stay alive in college baseball's postseason. The Musketeers hung on for a 7-5 win over Washington to set up what amounts to two elimination games today. Yes, two. Xavier has to beat UCSB not once, but twice, if they want to advance to the NCAA super regional against Louisville. The final remaining four seed in the nation, Xavier is already farther into the tournament than they've ever been before.
To keep going, Xavier now needs to beat a team that, barely, beat them earlier this weekend. The first time the Musketeers met Santa Barbara, Trent Astle struggled out of the gate and Xavier fell behind 5-0. A furious late rally fell short 5-4, but surely gave the squad some confidence that they can play with the two seed. In one of the many foibles of college baseball, UCSB advanced to play Xavier in the regional final by beating...Xavier. The early game yesterday was the only one that the Gauchos needed to win to get their chance at playing two to win one.
One of the reasons Xavier will carry hope into elimination day is their bullpen. In NCAA tournament play, the pen has thrown 14 innings with a 1.93 ERA. Prior to the fourth inning yesterday, the relievers hadn't allowed a run. Anchoring that effort, again, is Garrett Schilling, who closed out last night's game with his team record 14th save. Schilling now sports a 1.91 ERA himself, with opponents hitting only .248 off of him.
The pen today will be relieving, if needed, junior Greg Jacknewitz. Jacnewitz started eight games early on in the season but struggled with his control and was moved to the bullpen. After getting rocked by Georgetown (five runs in 1.2 innings) on April 16th, Jacknewitz has allowed only one run in five appearances spanning seven innings. In that time, Greg has only allowed eight baserunners and hasn't allowed an extra base hit. Should Xavier win the first game, the coaching staff has said they will look at who is available to go again without ruining an arm. With that consideration in mind, it won't be Zac Lowther coming back.
That's what sits in front of the Musketeers today. The first game will be at 3pm Eastern time and will be aired on ESPN3. In the event of a winner take all regional final, first pitch would be at 9PM ET. That game would also be available on ESPN3 but could possibly move onto one of the television networks as well. We will, as always, keep you posted on any developments. Weather remains a concern in the Nashville area today, so keep an eye on @BannersParkway and @XavierBASE for any updates. Nashville is only four hours away with a motivated driver and that "Let's Go X" sounds especially good in a baseball stadium. Just something to ponder.