Stage Set For No. 4 Xavier And No. 5 Richmond At A-10 Tourney

Senior John McCambridge leads the balanced Musketeer offense into Wednesday's game against Richmond.

Senior John McCambridge leads the balanced Musketeer offense into Wednesday's game against Richmond.

May 24, 2011

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CAMDEN, N.J. - The scenic backdrop of Campbell Field along the Delaware River provides the perfect setting for the No. 4 Xavier baseball team's opening game verses No. 5 Richmond at the 2011 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship.

The battle of left-handers Jon Richard (5-4) for the Musketeers and Bret Williams (7-2) for the Spiders begins at Noon.

The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to face top overall seed Charlotte on Thursday. The loser will return to Campbell field later on Wednesday for an elimination game against the loser of No. 3 Dayton and No. 6 La Salle.

Wednesday will be the fourth time the schools have faced each other this season and the fourth time the teams have faced each other in the A-10 playoffs. Richmond won the season series in April with 8-7, and 8-6 victories. The Musketeers salvaged the finale, winning 14-1. It was the last time that the Musketeers lost a weekend series, which happened only twice all year.

Richmond also holds a 2-1 advantage in postseason games after eliminating the Musketeers in 2007. Xavier beat the Spiders in the first meeting in 2003, but were denied a chance to play for title by Richmond.

Scouting The Musketeers (30-25 overall, 14-10 A-10)
Xavier is in its fifth straight conference tournament thanks to a thrilling victory over Fordham, 8-4, in extra innings Saturday night. The game, which finished well after midnight, was a must-win game for the Musketeers, who are 15-15 in A-10 postseason play. Xavier has one tournament championship banner, after winning the 2009 title.

With the ability to hit for power, steal bases, drive runners in, and reach base, the Musketeers have one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the league this year. They average over six runs per game and rank among the top five in all but one major A-10 offensive category. As a team the Musketeers are hitting .298, with an on-base percentage of .381 and slugging percentage of .406.

Seniors Ben Thomas and John McCambridge have been the mainstay threats in the lineup for the Musketeers. Thomas, the 2011 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, has had one of the best season's in Xavier history. The first baseman is hitting .355, with an on-base percentage of .422. He's driven in a team-high 55 runs to go with 14 homers, two shy of the school record. McCambridge leads XU with a .368 average and boosts the highest on-base percentage of the team (.443). The senior, who earned first team all-conference honors this season, has swiped a team-high 28 bases and scored 55 runs.

Richard will start for the second time this year against the Spiders. The south paw has been brilliant in his last two starts, allowing just two runs and striking out 11 hitters in 13.2 innings. On the year, he has an ERA of 3.55, while fanning 48 batters in 88.2 innings of work. He started against Richmond on April 10 and allowed three runs and 10 hits in seven innings.

As a staff, the Musketeers' 4.30 ERA ranks in the middle of the league. Available out of the bullpen in Wednesday's first game could be a number of arms including sophomore Seth Willoughby, and seniors Nathan Mutsch, Ryan Muransky, and Josh Murphy.

Supporting the pitching staff will be the best defensive team in the conference. With only 56 errors on the year, the Musketeers easily lead the league with a .974 fielding percentage. Senior catcher Ryan Bellamy has been a difference maker behind the plate tossing out 18 runners in 38 attempts.

Scouting Richmond (26-25-2 overall, 13-11 A-10)
Richmond's early success in conference games lacked up for the 3-5 record in conference games down the stretch. The Spiders lost two of three games to Saint Joseph's and finished tied with La Salle and St. Bonaventure at 13-11 to end of the season. Thankfully the Spiders had a 5-1 record against the Explorers and Bonnies and earned the head-to-head tie breaker for the fifth spot.

As a team the Spiders are hitting .278, with a .393 slugging percentage and on-base percentage of .360. They average 5.4 runs per game, to go along with 94 doubles, seven triples and 34 home runs in 53 games played.

Mike Mergenthaler, Billy Barber, and Phil Ruzbarsky are the offensive threats for the Spiders. Mergenthaler leads the team with seven home runs, 16 doubles, 41 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 16 steals on 18 attempts. Barber, who received first team all-conference honors as a catcher, has the second-highest batting average (.315) on the team and has five home runs and 20 RBI despite playing in just 34 games. Ruzbarsky is hitting .290 with 37 RBI, four home runs, and 31 runs.

Williams gets the starting nod for the Spiders and will face the Musketeers for the second time this year. In his first outing against Xavier on April 8, the sophomore went eight solid innings, and allowed just one run on seven hits.

Defensively the Spiders have a fielding percentage of .962, which ranks sixth in the conference. Catcher Chris Cowell has caught nine runners stealing this season in 26 attempts.