Baseball - Mon, May 23, 2005
Grand Rapids, Mich. - Despite an impressive start on the mound for junior lefthander Nick Karko (Alsip, Ill./Marist), the No. 16 ranked Saint Xavier University baseball team could not keep No. 23 Aquinas College (Mich.) at bay in the late innings of Saturday's Heartland Super Regional championship game as the Saints pulled off a 10-4 victory at Kimble Stadium in Grand Rapids, Mich. The win gave Aquinas the three-game series, 2-1, and its first-ever berth to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, beginning May 27. The Cougars end their season with an overall record of 39-23.

Karko pitched the first 5.1 innings Saturday and allowed just six hits, a walk, and two runs (one earned) in addition to two strikeouts. SXU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning behind back-to-back sacrifice flys by juniors Chris Gruber (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Catholic) and Luke Gregerson (Lyons, Ill./Morton), respectively. The Cougar offense struck again in the fourth inning when senior leftfielder Pat Flynn (Chicago, Ill./University of Illinois) hit a solo home run to left field to give Saint Xavier a 3-0 advantage.

Aquinas led off the fifth inning with a homer to narrow the SXU lead to two, 3-1, and tacked on another run in the sixth off a RBI groundout to third base to pull within one, 3-2. In the top of the seventh, the Aquinas' bats got hot and six hits turned into a five-run inning for the Saints as they took the 7-3 lead. The Cougars were able to score a run in the bottom of the seventh off a RBI single down the left field line by sophomore second baseman Craig Buske (New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central), but drew their third out with the bases loaded giving up a key opportunity to cut further into the Aquinas lead.

The Saints took full advantage putting up three more runs over the final two innings to build a 10-4 advantage. SXU was able to get runners on base in the eighth and ninth innings, but could not record the timely hits to bring them across home plate. Sophomore leftie Kevin White (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) took the loss for Saint Xavier pitching two thirds of an inning and allowing six hits, a walk and five runs. White ends the season with a 4-2 win-loss record on the mound. At the plate, the Cougar offense was led by Buske, who went 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored. Senior centerfielder A.J. Coia (North Riverside, Ill./Riverside-Brookfield) and sophomore third baseman Nick Tantillo (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) also each recorded two hits apiece in the ballgame.

Saint Xavier (39-23 overall) earned its first-ever trip to the Super Regional series this season. The new postseason format, which includes the Super Regional, was adopted in 2000.