Baseball - Wed, May. 17, 2006
CHICAGO - With the 2006 NAIA Region VII-VIII Super Regional just a day away, the four seniors on the Saint Xavier University baseball team are excited about the opportunity to finish out their season with an automatic bid to the 50th Annual Avista NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. Shortstop Brendan Christy (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew), outfielder/relief pitcher Luke Gregerson (Lyons, Ill./Morton), outfielder Chris Gruber (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic), and pitcher Nick Karko (Alsip, Ill./Marist) have all been instrumental in building the recent success of the program and would like to see their collegiate careers end at the national stage, a place SXU has not been since 1988.
"I believe the strength of this year's team is our senior class," said Saint Xavier University baseball coach Mike Dooley. "As juniors, these guys fell just a few outs short of qualifying for a World Series berth, so this season they are hungry to take that last step toward a national championship. Whatever happens this week, I know that this group of seniors has been the backbone of our program the last four years and will leave it all out on the field during this series."
Christy currently leads the Cougars in several offensive categories, including runs scored (49), doubles (18), triples (5), home runs (8), and total bases (119). He also has been stellar defensively at the shortstop position leading the team with 126 assists, while committing just seven errors. Gregerson has provided a big lift for Saint Xavier over the last two seasons both with his bat and on the mound as the team's closer. As SXU's starting right fielder, he is batting .348 (69-for-198) with team-highs in hits (69), RBI (48), and stolen bases (11), while also recording a team-leading nine saves and 0.81 earned run average (ERA).
After suffering an injury earlier in the season, Gruber has since rebounded and owns Saint Xavier's best batting average at .380 (49-for-129) with 13 doubles and 25 RBI over 37 games. He has been the program's best pure hitter over the last few seasons. A midseason shoulder injury prematurely ended Karko's college career, but that has not stopped the senior co-captain from supporting his teammates from the dugout. Over the last couple of seasons, his consistent and competitive nature on the mound made him one of the top pitchers in the Cougars' starting rotation.
The 2006 NAIA Region VII-VIII Super Regional series between the host Cougars and Madonna University (Mich.) begins at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field in Chicago. Game two is scheduled for an 11 a.m. start on Friday, May 19. Game three, if necessary, would take place immediately following game two. The winner of the series earns an automatic bid to participate in the 10-team NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, beginning on May 26.
The Cougars (31-24 overall, 16-2 CCAC) qualified for the Super Regional in 2005 for the first time since the new postseason format was instituted in 2000. SXU fell to Aquinas College (Mich.) in three games in 2005 falling just a few outs short of earning its first berth in the NAIA World Series since 1988.