Baseball - Thu, May 18, 2006
CHICAGO - Despite going 2-for-2 with a homer, a double, and two RBI, junior catcher Ryan Buchler (Schererville, Ind./South Suburban CC) was left stranded at second base with one out in the top of the eighth preventing the No. 24 ranked Saint Xavier University baseball team from scoring a potential game-tying run. The Cougars (31-25 overall/16-2 CCAC) fell, 3-2, to No. 22 Madonna University (Mich.) in nine innings Thursday in game one of the 2006 NAIA Heartland Super Regional best-of-three series at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field in Chicago.

Madonna, the home team for game one, struck first in the bottom of the first inning when senior third baseman and NAIA Region VIII Player of the Year Ben Ramsey brought senior center fielder Kevin Entsminger home from third on a sacrifice fly to center to put the Crusaders up, 1-0. Buchler answered for Saint Xavier kicking off the second inning with a solo shot over the right field wall to tie the game, 1-1. MU tacked on its second run of the game in the bottom of the second to go back ahead, 2-1, when senior first baseman Todd Kalmbach scored from third on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by senior catcher Justin Fabian.

A lead-off double by Madonna's sophomore designated hitter Dave Herrick in the bottom of the fourth inning turned into a third run for the Crusaders when Kalmbach brought him home with a RBI single to center field in the next at-bat. Trailing 3-1 in the top of the eighth, SXU senior left fielder Chris Gruber (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) opened the inning with a single to left field and Buchler recorded a RBI double down the right field line just two batters later to trim the lead to one, 3-2. However, following Buchler's double, Madonna senior starter Derek Dufrane (was replaced on the mound by senior righthander Clint LaFountaine and LaFountaine retired the next five Cougar batters to end the game. Dufrane threw seven and one-third innings and allowed two runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

Sophomore leftie Kyle Zilis (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) got the start for Saint Xavier and threw solid pitching six innings and giving up three runs on five hits with three walks and five Ks. Zilis fell to 5-3 overall this season with the loss. In addition to Buchler, Gruber was tough at the plate as well for SXU going 2-for-3 with two singles and a run scored. SXU finished with eight total hits in the ballgame compared to six by the Crusaders.

The Cougars (31-25 overall, 16-2 CCAC) continue the best-of-three series Friday with game two scheduled for an 11 a.m. start at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field. Game three, if necessary, will immediately follow game two Friday.