For the fourth straight weekend, Xavier baseball traveled out-of-state for a three-game series. On this most recent trip, the Muskies traveled down to Alabama to face the SEC's Auburn Tigers. Unfortunately, the X-men were unable to get much traction against War Eagle and were swept in the series.
Friday – Auburn 7, Xavier 2
Although seven different X-men were able to record a hit against the Tigers, XU was unable to convert those hits into runs. Xavier's two lone runs came from batters who have already been successful this season, grad student / right fielder Brian Bruening (who went 2-for-3 and drove in one run) and junior catcher Daniel Rizzie (who brought home the day's second RBI).
Sophomore left Brad Kirschner, who had been red hot this season (0.47 ERA after three starts), struggled mightily after getting the start. Over 4.1 innings, Kirschner allowed six walks and six earned runs. Fortunately for head coach Scott Googins, the trio of Greg Jacknewitz, Daniel Przeniczny, and Garrett Schilling took the reins and pitched well, allowing only one run in 3.2 innings. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.
Auburn opened the game with two runs and continued to build their lead throughout. Tigers' starter Cole Lipscomb (3-0) earned the win, pitching six full innings and only allowing the Muskies only one run.
Saturday – Auburn 3, Xavier 2 (11 innings)
Unlike Friday's matchup, Saturday was a long and grueling affair for Xavier. Senior righty Adam Hall got the start and pitched five strong innings, allowing only two earned runs. Then, freshman lefty Zac Lowther entered the game and pitched quite well – throwing 3.1 innings of run-free ball. Finally, senior right-hander Jacob Bodner relieved Lowther and contributed another 1.2 innings of near-perfect relief.
After falling to an early 2-0 deficit, the X-men continued to fight back. In the fifth inning, freshman third baseman Rylan Bannon hit an RBI single that brought XU within one run. Two innings later, the game was tied when second baseman David Morton drove left fielder Blaine Griffiths home with a sacrifice fly.
Over three of the last four innings, Xavier was able to get on base, but incapable of turning those hits into runs. Likewise, Auburn was unable to get home after several more innings. That tie lasted until the eleventh, when Auburn was able to take advantage of poor pitching by Xavier. Following back-to-back walks and a single by junior Melvin Gray, Auburn scored the winning run after a Xavier defensive error. By the time free baseball had ended, the Tigers won 3-2.
Sunday – Auburn 10, Xavier 6
Unfortunately, Sunday was equally rough on the Muskies' baseball team. Although senior second baseman Selby Chidemo hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning, XU was unable to mount a successful comeback and fell in the series finale against Auburn.
Sophomore lefty Trent Astle got the start for Xavier and had a rough first inning, allowing the Tigers to score five runs in the bottom of the frame. That offensive display from Auburn quickly surpassed the 1-0 lead Xavier was able to muster after the first inning (junior David Morton scored on an Auburn error). Entering the fifth inning, the Tigers had a 6-1 lead over the Muskies. Then, freshman third baseman Rylan Bannon smashed a double to field field and scored right fielder Brian Bruening. Halfway through the game, Xavier had slashed the lead to 6-2.
When it was Auburn's turn to take on the fifth inning, they struck again and added another three runs. Following another run in the seventh inning, Auburn entered the ninth with a 10-2 lead. However, the Muskies were not ready to give up...
Unlike the earlier portions of the game, the ninth inning seemed to click for XU. Before too long, there were two runners in scoring position as Selby Chidemo stood in the batter's box. Moments later, Chidemo connected for his first home run of the season and those three RBIs trimmed the Tigers' lead 10-5. With two outs, freshman Blaine Griffiths and sophomore Joe Gellenbeck reached base. Freshman pinch hitter Nate Soria then doubled to left field, with his first career hit, and brought home Griffiths. All of a sudden, it was a four run game (Auburn 10, Xavier 6) with the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate. Disappointingly, the final batter struck out looking and Auburn was able to sweep the Musketeers at home.
Even though the beginning of this season has been rough, the Muskies will not be giving up any time soon. Look for them to come back strong against Wright State on Tuesday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. ET.