Baseball - Fri, Apr. 17, 2009
CHICAGO - Behind a strong performance on the mound by senior right-hander Dan Miller (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic), the Saint Xavier University baseball team took a key Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) contest from University of St. Francis (Ill.), 5-3, Friday afternoon at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars (28-9 overall/17-2 CCAC) have now extended their season-long win streak to 17 games with Friday's victory.

SXU struck first in the second inning, putting up three runs on Saints starter Erik Zehme. With two outs and runners on second and third, freshman catcher Jim Pipolo (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) launched a towering three-run homer (his second of the year) to left field to give the Cougars the early 3-0 advantage. In the bottom of the third, senior centerfielder Don Skelly (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) singled and later scored when junior shortstop John O'Brien (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich) hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield. In the bottom of the fourth, Saint Xavier added to its lead with a little help from some USF miscues. Zach Clements (Berwyn, Ill./Morton) singled to start off the inning and advanced to second after a balk. A sacrifice fly moved Clements to third base and an errant pickoff throw to third base by Zehme allowed Clements to score, giving the Cougars their fifth and final run. Skelly, Pipolo, senior first baseman Matt Van Mill (Palos Heights, Ill./Bishop McNamara) and junior second baseman Matt Mueller (Burbank, Ill./Reavis) all finished with two hits in the game.

Miller gave Saint Xavier 6.1 innings of solid baseball to improve his overall record this season to 6-2. He scattered six hits and struck out two. Miller left in the seventh inning with one out and the Saints threatening with runners on first and third. Sophomore reliever Joe Branigan (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South) induced a double-play ball on his first pitch to end the rally. The Saints would threaten in the top of the ninth off Branigan and SXU sophomore closer Ken Hurta (Midlothian, Ill./Bremen). Branigan hit the leadoff batter and threw a ball to the next hitter. SXU skipper Mike Dooley then summoned Hurta from the bullpen. Hurta gave up a single, struck out a batter, induced a ground out to third and gave up another single, which scored two Saints making the score, 5-3, with two outs. USF catcher Pat Grady came to the plate as the tying run, but lined out to left field to give the Cougars the victory.

Saint Xavier (28-9 overall/17-2 CCAC) remains perfect at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field improving to 13-0 at home this season with Friday's victory. SXU continues its series with St. Francis Saturday with a 1 p.m. double header. The two seven-inning contests will be played at Silver Cross Field in downtown Joliet.