Sophomore Ben Thomas went 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBI
May 23, 2009
DAYTON, Ohio - Senior Billy O'Conner's two-RBI single in the seventh scored the winning run for the Musketeers as the Xavier baseball team downed Rhode Island, 9-7, in the 2009 Atlantic 10 Championship, forcing a second championship game.
This is XU's school-record 37th win and the first time in program history the team had won four games at the conference championship. O'Conner led the Muskies, going 3-for-5 at the plate with three RBI and two runs scored.
Xavier (37-19) jumped out to a two-run lead in the top of the first after senior Billy O'Conner led off with a single off the pitcher's bare hand and junior Drew Schmidt took a base on balls. Junior Neil Lindgren moved both runners over with a ground out and sophomore Ben Thomas brought them both home with his two-RBI single to center.
Rhode Island (37-19-1) came up empty in the bottom of the first but XU kept its offense going in the second, scoring four more runs on five hits. Senior Steve Brown led off with a double and made it to third on a fielder's choice. Brown came home on a single by O'Conner and Schmidt knocked in senior Adam Pasono with a single to left. Lindgren collected an RBI with his single as O'Conner crossed home and Schmidt able to score on a fielder's choice to give the Musketeers the six-run lead, 6-0.
Rhody got a run back in the second on a solo shot over the left center fence, giving URI its first run of the game and scored again in the fourth on back-to-back sacrifice fly outs. After four complete, the Musketeers held on to the 6-3 advantage.
A costly Musketeer error in the fifth helped the Rams get four runs in the frame to take their first lead of the contest. Rhode Island used three hits to put Xavier in a one-run hole, 7-6.
O'Conner came up big again in the seventh as he stepped to the plate with bases loaded and two outs. He sent a ball skirting up the middle for a base hit to plate junior Bobby Freking as well as sophomore John McCambridge, giving the Musketeers the lead back, 8-7. With the next batter up, a wild pitch to the backstop gave Pasono time to make it home as well. At the seventh inning stretch, XU was up, 9-7.
After the seventh inning stretch, Rhody loaded the bases with two outs. Senior Jordan Conley was called in from shortstop to close out the game on the mound for the Musketeers and got XU out of the jam with a three-pitch swinging strikeout. After hitting the first URI batter in the eighth, Conley punched out three straight as XU headed into the ninth with the 9-7 advantage.
Sophomore Brian Muransky (7-2) gets the win for the Musketeers, his second win in as many days, after throwing two innings. Conley gets his school-record 13th save of the season after closing out the game on the mound for XU and he tallied six K's in the outing. Starter sophomore Tommy Shirley threw four innings, giving up four runs on three hits and striking out four.
Eric Smith (5-3) took the loss for the Rams, after tossing 6.2 innings. He gave up eight runs on 11 hits and struck out five while walking three.
Xavier and Rhode Island will play the second game of the championship series today with first pitch set for 4:23 p.m.