CHICAGO – Scoring nine runs in the bottom of the fifth, the Saint Xavier University baseball team rallied from an early 6-0 deficit to capture a thrilling 11-9 victory in the first game of a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) doubleheader with Robert Morris University (Ill.) Wednesday afternoon at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field in Chicago. The Cougars (21-8 overall/8-1 CCAC) carried their momentum into the day's second game scoring five runs over the final four innings to complete the sweep with a 7-6 win. Senior second baseman Tom Simek (New Lenox, Ill./St. Laurence) had one of the hottest bats for SXU Tuesday going a combined 3-for-7 with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBI.
Things looked bleak early on for the Cougars in the opener as RMU scored six runs off five hits and an error in the top of the first inning. A two-RBI single by freshman centerfielder Tyler Peper (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) in the bottom of the second made the score, 6-2. The Eagles would get a run back in the top of the third off a RBI single to make it, 7-2. Robert Morris would extend its lead to 9-2 in the top of the fifth on a two-run homer by senior second baseman James Dawson. However, five hits, two walks, a hit batter and three errors turned into nine runs for Saint Xavier in the bottom of the frame. Simek came up with the biggest hit of the inning when his two-out single turned into a bases-clearing play due to a pair of errors by the Eagles. Senior right-hander Austin Lehmann (Shorewood, Ill./Minooka) would pick up the save (2) going the final two frames and allowing no hits or runs with two walks and four strikeouts. Freshman righty Dan Wetzel (Tinley Park, Ill./Providence Catholic) got the win (3-1) in relief of junior starter Mike Stirling (Thornton, Ill./Mount Carmel). Wetzel threw one inning and gave up two hits, two runs (both earned) and a walk with one strikeout.
SXU got off to a much better start in the late game scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first on a two-RBI double by sophomore right fielder Chris Klein (Huntley, Ill./Huntley). The Eagles would get a RBI double in the top of the second to cut the lead in half, 2-1. RMU then took a 3-2 lead by scoring two runs off back-to-back RBI singles in the third inning. The Cougars got the lead back, 5-3, scoring three runs in the bottom of the third by taking advantage of two errors and a wild pitch by the Eagles. A RBI double by Simek in the fourth and a RBI double in the fifth by junior third baseman Mike Pokers (Lansing, Ill./Andrean) gave SXU a 7-3 advantage heading into the final frame. Robert Morris would make things interesting in the top of the seventh with a three-RBI double by sophomore right fielder Kevin McDonald, but Klein would end the game with a strikeout to preserve the 7-6 win. Sophomore right-hander Lucas Fritsch (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) got the start and the win (3-0) for the Cougars throwing four innings and allowing seven hits, three runs (two earned) and two walks with no strikeouts.
Saint Xavier (21-8 overall/8-1 CCAC) heads to Joliet, Ill., to take on conference rival University of St. Francis (Ill.) on Friday, March 30. The nine-inning game starts at 3:30 p.m. at Silver Cross Field. The teams wrap up the three-game series with a Saturday doubleheader at SXU at noon.