Elgin, Ill. – Earning a spot in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Baseball Tournament championship game with an 8-4 win over No. 7 seed University of St. Francis (Ill.) Tuesday evening, the No. 5 seeded Saint Xavier University baseball team did not carry the offensive momentum into the later game falling 2-0 to No. 3 seed Saint Ambrose University (Iowa) to end its 2017 season late Tuesday night at Hoffer Field in Elgin, Ill. The Cougars (28-29 overall) got an impressive start from junior right-hander Tyler Hebel (Waterloo, Ill./Waterloo) in Tuesday's first game. Hebel had a perfect game through the first six innings and finished allowing just three hits, two runs (both earned) and no walks with five strikeouts. He collected the victory to improve to 7-5 for the season. Senior centerfielder Alex Neufeld (Tinley Park, Ill./Roosevelt University/Lincoln-Way North) and freshman catcher Matt Bunetta (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield East) each had two RBIs for SXU in the win over USF.
Bunetta got things rolling for Saint Xavier in the bottom of the first inning when he drove in Neufeld on a fielder's choice to give his team the early 1-0 advantage. Neufeld came up big in the bottom of the second sparking a six-run frame by finding the gap in left centerfield for a two-run double. Ahead 7-0, the Cougars carried the big lead into the seventh inning before the Fighting Saints scored a pair of runs on a fielder's choice and an RBI single in the top of the seventh. A two-run double in the top of the eighth trimmed the lead to just three, 7-4; but SXU answered with an RBI single up the middle by freshman first baseman Ben Zordani (New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln-Way West) in the bottom half of the eighth. USF led off the ninth with a single, but junior reliever Erik Eggert (Tinley Park, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) got a double play and a strikeout to end the game.
The championship game against the Fighting Bees was a different story as Saint Xavier managed just four total hits over the nine-inning affair. Freshman right-hander Drew Dominik (Oak Forest, Ill./Oak Forest) had a solid complete-game performance for the Cougars. He gave up just seven hits, two runs (both earned) and two walks with eight strikeouts over his eight innings of work. SXU had chances to put runs on the scoreboard, but could not get the hit when it counted. Freshman third baseman Matt Monahan (New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln-Way West) led off the top of the fourth inning with a double down the right field line, but never advanced past second base. The Cougars also missed out on a golden opportunity in the seventh inning with back-to-back walks and a wild pitch placing runners at second and third base with no outs, but a pair of strikeouts and a fly-out ended the chance.
Saint Xavier finishes the 2017 season with a 28-29 overall record and placed fifth overall in the final CCAC regular season standings with a 15-11 mark. After winning the tournament last season, it marks the second straight season that SXU has advanced to the championship game.