SXU baseball coach Mike Dooley got career win No. 700 on Saturday
SXU baseball coach Mike Dooley got career win No. 700 on Saturday
Baseball - Thu, Mar. 3, 2011
Winter Haven, Fla. - Saint Xavier University baseball coach Mike Dooley picked up career victory No. 700 over the weekend as the Cougars opened their 2011 campaign with a dominant 17-4 win over Gannon University (Pa.) as part of the Russ-Matt Invitational last Saturday afternoon in Winter Haven, Fla. Unfortunately since the big season-opening victory, SXU has struggled to pick up some more going 0-6-1 over its next seven games to start the year with a 1-6-1 overall mark. One bright spot in the line-up for the Cougars so far this spring has been junior catcher Jim Pipolo (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg). Playing in all seven games, Pipolo has hit .375 (9-for-24) with two doubles and a team-leading seven RBI.

SXU scored early and often in the big win over Gannon taking a 10-3 lead after just three innings of play. Junior second baseman Tom Simek (New Lenox, Ill./St. Laurence) and sophomore first baseman Mike Pokers (Lansing, Ill./Andrean) each posted three hits in the victory. Simek also tallied three runs scored and four RBI, while Pipolo finished with a double and three RBI. Senior right-hander Ken Hurta (Midlothian, Ill./Bremen) picked up the victory on the mound throwing 6.2 innings and allowing three hits, four runs (two earned) and four walks with eight strikeouts. The Cougars could not carry the offensive momentum into game two against the Golden Knights falling 3-2 after giving up two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. A RBI double apiece for red-shirt junior infielder Austin Lehmann (Shorewood, Ill./Minooka) and junior designated hitter Brett Ratajczak (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) in the third inning gave Saint Xavier a 2-1 lead, which held going into the seventh inning. The Cougars left runners stranded at second and third base in both the top of the sixth and seventh innings before giving up back-to-back RBI singles in the bottom of the seventh to drop the game.

In Sunday's first game against Davenport University (Mich.), SXU again gave up an early lead after jumping out to a 2-0 advantage following a two-run, third-inning homer by freshman outfielder Chris Klein (Huntley, Ill./Huntley). The Panthers would tie things up, 2-2, in the bottom of the fifth and the game would advance to extra frames. In the bottom of the eighth, an infield error by the Cougars put the go-ahead run at second base and a one-out RBI single gave Davenport the 3-2 victory. Errors continued to plague Saint Xavier in its second game Sunday against William Penn University (Iowa). In the 8-5 loss, SXU committed three miscues and gave up two unearned runs. Freshmen Corey Lasky (Vernon Hills, Ill./Stevenson) and Justin Smykowski (Crestwood, Ill./Shepard) each recorded two hits and a run scored for Saint Xavier in the game.

In a nine-inning game Monday against Bethel College (Ind.), the fielding troubles continued as four errors helped the Pilots pick up a 6-5 win over the Cougars. Smykowski racked up three hits, while Pipolo went 2-for-5 at the plate. SXU fell behind 5-2 after four innings of play before scoring three runs over the next two frames to tie the game in the top of the sixth. A one-out triple followed by a RBI single by Bethel in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the difference as both teams went scoreless over the final three innings. Saint Xavier came back Tuesday afternoon and played a tough Warner Southern University (Fla.) team to a 4-4 tie in 12 innings. Pipolo finished that game 3-for-6 with two RBI, while senior third baseman Matt Erickson (Oak Lawn, Ill./Richards) belted out four hits on the day. The two teams combined for 30 hits with the Cougars posting 13 of them.

On Wednesday, Saint Xavier faced off against Webber International University (Fla.) for a doubleheader and dropped them both by scores of 6-2 and 8-7. WIU jumped out to an early 6-1 lead through five innings of game one despite three hits and a pair of RBI by Ratajczak. In the second game, SXU built a 6-1 lead of its own heading into the bottom of the sixth, but gave up seven runs in the lower half of the frame to lose another one-run decision. Senior centerfielder Anthony Maziur (Oak Forest, Ill./NIU/Oak Forest) went 3-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and two RBI to lead the Cougar offense.

Saint Xavier (1-6-1 overall) continues play in Florida on Thursday, March 3, with a doubleheader against Notre Dame College (Ohio). The first of the two games begins at 11 a.m. (central) Thursday.