Baseball - Fri, May 19, 2006
CHICAGO - A wild pitch by Madonna University senior reliever Clint LaFountaine with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the tenth inning allowed Saint Xavier University senior left fielder Chris Gruber (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) to score the game-winning run from third propelling the Cougars to a 7-6 game-three win and their first NAIA World Series berth since 1988. SXU (33-25 overall) came into Friday trailing 1-0 in the best-of-three series, but won game two, 7-3, and rallied in the action-packed game three for the thrilling, extra-innings victory.

"These two wins today are a testament to our players and their never-give-up attitude," said Saint Xavier University baseball coach Mike Dooley. "Getting to the World Series is every team's goal at the beginning of the season, yet very few teams get the chance to realize it. I am so proud of our guys. They fought hard today with their backs against the wall and made their dreams come true."

In the first game of the day, Saint Xavier junior starter Ryan Quigley (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) pitched a gem throwing seven and one-third innings and allowing just two hits, two runs, and four walks with five strikeouts. With a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Cougar offense went off for five more runs thanks in part to two errors by the Crusaders and RBI hits from senior right fielder Luke Gregerson (Lyons, Ill./Morton) and junior designated hitter Brian Grupp (Granger, Ind./Penn).

Madonna scored three runs in the top of the eighth on a two-run homer from senior second baseman Jason Barbeau and a RBI single later in the inning from senior first baseman Todd Kalmbach. However, with a 5-3 lead in the ninth, Gregerson closed things out on the mound with a 1-2-3 inning. Gregerson also had a hot bat in game two finishing 2-for-4 at the plate with a double, two runs scored, and a RBI, while sophomore first baseman Joe Miller (Chicago, Ill./Gordon Tech) went 1-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI.

In the series finale, both teams started out hot with SXU leading, 2-1, after an inning of play following RBI hits from junior catcher Ryan Buchler (Schererville, Ind./South Suburban CC) and Miller. The Cougars took a 4-1 lead into the fifth when junior second baseman Craig Buske (New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central) drove in two runs on a single to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth. However, despite a run in the fifth for SXU, Madonna scored three runs over the fifth and sixth innings to close to within a run, 5-4.

After scoreless seventh and eighth innings, the Crusaders took the lead, 6-5, in the top of the ninth on two RBI singles. A RBI single by junior third baseman Nick Tantillo (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) with one out in the bottom of the ninth tied the game, 6-6. After keeping Madonna off the scoreboard in the top of the tenth, a single by Gruber and two hit batsman loaded the bases for the Cougars with two outs, which led to the exciting finish at the plate. Gregerson (3-1) got the game three win on the mound for Saint Xavier throwing the final three innings and allowing four hits, two unearned runs, and a walk with three Ks.