May 20, 2009
DAYTON, Ohio - Senior Neil Lindgren and first baseman Ben Thomas homered back-to-back in the third inning and junior Zac Richard delivered a strong performance on the mound as third-seeded Xavier downed No. 6 and two-time defending champion Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon, 8-4, in the opening round of the 2009 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship at Fifth Third Field.
Vying for its firsnt-ever A-10 crown, Xavier (34-18) will face No. 2 Rhode Island on Thursday at 3:30pm. The two teams split their four previous meetings this season. Charlotte will square off against fifth-seeded Fordham in an elimination game for both teams at 7:15 pm on Wednesday evening.
Richard improved to 3-0 on the year after allowing four runs on eight hits over 7.1 innings with a pair of strikeouts. It marked just his fourth start of the season after sustaining an injury at the start of the year.
"Zac did an unbelievable job for us. We missed him this year," said Xavier head coach Scott Googins, who led the Musketeers to their first win in the opening round of the Championship since a 6-3 win over Duquesne in 2003.
Xavier manufactured a run in the bottom of the second off Charlotte starter Joe Yermal (8-3) as Thomas singled to start the inning and came around to score on leftfielder Steve Brown's RBI groundout. XU pushed its lead to 4-0 in the third on Lindgren's two-run shot, his fourth of the year, and Thomas' 15th home run of the season, a blast to straightaway center. Yermal surrendered five runs (one earned) on five hits in 3.2 innings of work.
Charlotte cut the lead to 5-1 in the fifth as senior Aaron Bray singled home rightfielder Justin Wilson. It marked the 288th hit of Bray's career, good for second all-time in program annals. However, XU pushed its advantage to 8-1 in the bottom of the fifth as Lindgren and Thomas singled and came around to score on a three-run double by junior Bobby Freking, which followed a walk to shortstop Jordan Conley.
The 49ers added a run in the sixth on a solo home run by catcher Zane Williams and two additional runs in the eighth but four untimely errors and seven runners left on base played a big role in Charlotte's first loss at the A-10 Championship since 2006. Williams and Wilson both collected two hits on the afternoon for Charlotte.
Thomas led the XU offensive attack with three hits and three runs scored, while Lindgren scored a pair of runs. Sophomore Brian Muransky closed out the win with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
"I have a lot of respect for [head coach] Jim Foster and the URI program so we're just going to gear up and take it one game at a time."