Baseball - Sun, May 14, 2006
Joliet, Ill. - A ninth-inning grand slam by junior catcher Ryan Buchler (Schererville, Ind./South Suburban CC) helped the No. 1 seeded Saint Xavier University baseball team secure the 2006 NAIA Region VII Tournament championship with a 10-4 win over No. 3 seed University of St. Francis (Ill.) Sunday night at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, Ill. With the victory, the Cougars (31-24 overall) return to the Super Regional, a best-of-three series against the Region VIII champion, for the second straight season. SXU will host the 2006 Region VII-VIII Super Regional series at Richard R. Ferrell Memorial Field in Chicago with game one scheduled for Thursday, May 18. Game time for game one is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday.

In addition to Buchler, senior shortstop Brendan Christy (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) was also tough at the plate for Saint Xavier going 2-for-5 with a double, home run, and three RBI. Junior righthander Ryan Quigley (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) got the starting nod and the win (7-4) Sunday throwing seven solid innings and allowing just six hits, four runs (three earned), and four walks with four strikeouts. Senior reliever Luke Gregerson (Lyons, Ill./Morton) came in to pitch the final two innings for SXU and gave up just two hits, no runs, and no walks while fanning one USF batter.

St. Francis posted two runs in the bottom of the first inning on a two-run homer to left field by senior second baseman Tony O'Gean. The Cougars tied things up in the fourth when Christy led off the inning with a solo shot down the left field line and junior third baseman Nick Tantillo (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) recorded a sacrifice fly later in the inning to score senior left fielder Chris Gruber (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) from third.

Two RBI hits in the sixth inning gave the Fighting Saints back the lead, 4-2, but Saint Xavier scored eight runs over the final three innings to seal the victory. In the seventh, SXU got a RBI fielder's choice from freshman centerfielder Don Skelly (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) and a two-out, two-RBI double to right-center from Christy. Junior designated hitter Brian Grupp (Granger, Ind./Penn) recorded Saint Xavier's RBI single in the eighth inning to put his team ahead, 6-4. With one out in the top of the ninth, Buchler provided some insurance with a grand slam to left field to pick up the 10-4 victory.

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 last season falling just a few outs short of earning its first berth in the NAIA World Series since 1988.