Baseball - Tue, May 12, 2009
Rome, Ga. - Led by a standout pitching performance by senior lefthander Kyle Zilis (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist), the No. 24 ranked and No. 3 seeded Saint Xavier University baseball team rolled to a 9-3 victory over No. 17 ranked and No. 2 seed Malone University (Ohio) Tuesday afternoon in the Field 3 Tournament of the NAIA Baseball National Championship Opening Round at William R. Bowdoin Field in Rome, Ga. Zilis threw eight innings and struck out 11 batters; while allowing five hits, three runs (all earned) and six walks to improve to 9-2 on the year. Junior shortstop John O'Brien (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich) and junior right fielder Zach Clements (Berwyn, Ill./Morton) provided most of the offensive fireworks for SXU Tuesday. O'Brien went 2-for-3 with a double, triple, two runs scored and two RBI; while Clements finished the day 3-for-5 with a double, a run scored and two RBI.

After the Cougars went down in order in the top of the first inning, Zilis got into a bit of trouble allowing two walks in the bottom of the frame. However, he battled out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts to keep the game scoreless. O'Brien provided the game's first hit, a double to the gap in left-centerfield, to open the second inning. He later scored the game's first run when junior designated hitter Ken Tezak (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) brought him home from second on a RBI single to centerfield in the next at-bat. Clinging to a 1-0 lead after two full innings, SXU added another run in the top of the third following a throwing error by Malone senior shortstop Scott McIlvain that allowed junior leftfielder Tony Testin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) to score from third base.

Highlighted by a two-RBI triple to right-centerfield by O'Brien, the Cougars pulled away in the top of the fifth behind four hits for four runs to build a 6-0 advantage. The hits continued to come in the top of the sixth with senior centerfielder Don Skelly (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) recording a two-RBI single to centerfield and Clements posting a RBI double to left-centerfield to cap a three-run inning for SXU. With SXU leading 9-0 after six innings, Zilis continued to roll putting the Pioneers down in order in the seventh. He finally gave up his first hit of the game with no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning on a single to left field by McIlvain. Zilis allowed four consecutive hits to start the ninth, which led to all three of Malone's runs, before he was relieved by sophomore righthander Joe Branigan (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South).

Saint Xavier (40-13 overall) advances to Wednesday's 3:30 p.m. game and will face the winner of tonight's game between No. 1 seed Berry College (Ga.) and No. 5 seed Taylor University (Ind.).