Whiting, Ind. – Behind a big day at the plate by freshman designated hitter Andy Kovarik (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge), Saint Xavier University split its first two games of the 2012 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Baseball Tournament Wednesday and stayed alive in the double-elimination event held at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. The Cougars (35-22 overall) played Wednesday's opener against University of St. Francis (Ill.) at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field in Chicago due to Tuesday's wet weather and lost the game, 12-7. SXU bounced back in its second game Wednesday with a 7-4 victory over Purdue University-North Central (Ind.) in Whiting, Ind., to keep its tournament title hopes alive.
Sophomore left fielder Brad Myjak (Tinley Park, Ill./Mount Carmel) kicked off the scoring in the late game with Purdue-North Central with a solo homer to left field to open the bottom of the second. A throwing error by the Panthers plated another run for the Cougars in the frame giving SXU an early 2-0 lead. A RBI single by PUNC in the top of the sixth cut Saint Xavier's lead in half, 2-1. Myjak got the run back in the bottom of the frame with a sacrifice fly to right field. The Cougars added three more runs in the bottom of the seventh led by a two-RBI single from senior shortstop Adam Koglin (Henderson, Nev./UNLV/Silverado) and a RBI triple by sophomore right fielder Chris Klein (Huntley, Ill./Huntley).
A pair of RBI singles and a wild pitch gave the Panthers three runs in the top of the eighth to make the score, 6-4, in favor of SXU. Saint Xavier capped the scoring with a RBI single by Kovarik and put PUNC down in order in the ninth to end the game. Sophomore right-hander Scott Vachon (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) got the win (5-3) going 7.2 innings and giving up 12 hits, four runs (all earned) and three walks with six strikeouts. Senior righty Austin Lehmann (Shorewood, Ill./Minooka) recorded his fourth save of the year going the final 1.1 innings and allowing just one hit, no runs and no walks with two strikeouts.
In the first game of the day, the Cougars could not overcome five errors and fell behind 10-0 to University of St. Francis (Ill.) over the first five innings of play. The Fighting Saints did most of their offensive damage in the bottom of the fifth scoring nine runs thanks in part to three errors in the frame by SXU. USF cranked out seven hits in the big inning. Saint Xavier answered with four runs in the top of the sixth highlighted by a three-run shot to left field by Kovarik.
SXU plated three more runs in the top of the seventh taking advantage of two walks, an error and a hit batsman. However, that was it for the Cougar offense with no hits over the final two frames and USF adding a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to make it, 12-7. Kovarik finished 1-for-3 with the homer and four RBI, while Klein posted two hits and a run scored. Junior right-hander Mike Stirling (Thornton, Ill./Mount Carmel) suffered his first loss of the year (5-1) going four innings and allowing 10 hits, eight runs (seven earned) and no walks with one strikeout.
Saint Xavier (35-22 overall/20-10 CCAC) takes on No. 1 seed Judson University (Ill.) in an elimination game of the CCAC Tournament at Oil City Stadium in Whiting. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start on Thursday, May 3.