May 23, 2009
DAYTON, Ohio - Catcher Billy O'Conner's two-run single in the seventh gave Xavier the lead for good and senior Jordan Conley tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless relief for his program-record 13th save of the season as the third-seeded Musketeers fought off elimination with a 9-7 win over No. 2 Rhode Island on Saturday afternoon at the 2009 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship from Fifth Third Field.
After securing their program-record 37th win of the season, the Musketeers will square off against URI (37-19-1) at approximately 4:20pm this afternoon in the final game of the Championship. XU seeks its first-ever A-10 crown, while the Rams' lone title came in 2005.
"Very proud of our guys. We're tired, it's hot out here but I told them they can't give in to that right now," said Xavier head coach Scott Googins.
"We have one more game and I think we have a little bit left in our reserve."
Xavier jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first as O'Conner opened the game with a single off of URI starter Eric Smith (5-3). Following a walk to second basemen Drew Schmidt, a groundout by Neil Lindgren advanced to the runners into scoring position before designated hitter Ben Thomas lined a two-run single to centerfield. The Musketeers pushed their lead to 6-0 with four runs in the second, highlighted by consecutive RBI singles from O'Conner, Schmidt and Lindgren.
Rhode Island chipped away at the lead, however, as first baseman Tom Coulombe opened the bottom of the second with a home run off XU starter Tommy Shirley. URI junior Oliver Palmer got things started in the fourth with a leadoff double and moved to third on a single by senior Dan Rhault. Both players came around to score on sacrifice flies by Coulombe and designated hitter Jeff Cammans, respectively, to cut the Musketeers' advantage to 6-3.
The Rams erupted for four runs in the fifth on just three hits but were aided by a walk, an error and a hit batsmen in taking a 7-6 lead. The rally was highlighted by a two-run single to right with two outs by Coulombe off XU senior Brett Greenwell and an RBI double by Cammans. Meanwhile, Smith was settling in and with two out in the sixth and Schmidt on first, the junior righthander speared a one-hopper by Thomas and flipped to first to retire the side. It marked the fourth consecutive scoreless inning tossed by Smith.
Xavier regained the lead in the top of the seventh, however, as it scored all three of its runs with two outs. Following a walk to senior Adam Pasono by reliever Dan Rossignol to load the bases, O'Conner faced a full count before delivering a two-run single to score Bobby Freking and McCambridge.
"I figured he would come with a fastball there since you don't want to walk in the tying run on an off-speed pitch and it just found space," said OConner, who finished the 3-for-5 on the afternoon with three RBI.
Pasono provided an insurance run as he scored from third on wild pitch by junior Mark Fraser. Rhode Island threatened in the bottom half of the inning as Rhault stroked a two-out single and moved to third on a double by Coulombe, his third hit of the afternoon. After sophomore Brian Muransky walked Cammans to load the bases, Conley came on in relief and fanned freshman Mike LeBel to end the inning.
Conley struck out the side in the eighth and fanned two in the ninth to secure the Musketeers' program-best fourth win in the A-10 Championship. Muransky earned his seventh win of the season and second of the Championship after tossing two innings of scoreless relief and scattering two hits.
Coulombe drove in a game-high four runs and Rhault collected a pair of hits for URI, which had its four-game winning streak snapped.