Category archive: Xavier Musketeers
The Owls' 7-6 loss to Kansas State last night pushed the Houston Regional 1-seed into the losers' bracket and an elimination game against Xavier on Sunday afternoon.
Unlike their previous teams, the Owls don't have much pitching depth. Those problems are especially aggravated if the Owls have to go to the bullpen.
Whether they have enough pitching to go through two games today and another one on Monday remains to be seen. Especially considering they will have to beat a hot-hitting KSU team that is hitting .400 with four homers and 30 hits in the Wildcats' first two NCAA tournament games.
But assuredly, Graham didn't want to find out.
Here are the starting lineups for the elimination game. Rice is the visiting team.
Rice Owls (40-16)
2B Brock Holt
SS Rick Hague
DH Diego Seastrunk
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Michael Fuda
C Craig Manuel
CF Steven Sultzbaugh
1B Jimmy Comerota
RF Jeremy Rathjen
RHP Jared Rogers (3-1, 7.24 ERA)
Xavier Musketeers (39-20)
C Billy O'Conner
2B Drew Schmidt
RF Neil Lindgren
P-DH Ben Thomas
SS Jordan Conley
1B Bobby Freking
LF Steve Brown
3B John McCambridge
CF Adam Pasono
LHP Ben Thomas (5-1, 6.47 ERA)
The Owls will start Sunday's game without right fielder Chad Mozingo, who is nursing a fractured hamate bone in his right end. Mozingo has started 50 of the Owls' 56 games and ranks second on the team with a .551 slugging average.
Pregame weather conditions: The temperature is 87 degrees with humidity at 33 percent. Winds are from the southeast at 6 mph.
HP: Joe Marion 1B: Mark Chapman 2B: Scott Cline 3B: Randy Watkins
The Wildcats tied the score in the sixth inning on a leadoff single from Carter Jurica. After advancing to second on a groundout, Jurica advanced to third when Rice pitcher Ryan Berry's pickoff throw sailed into center field.
Jurica would score from third later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Justin Bloxom to tie the score.
Rice has notched nine hits against KSU pitcher A.J. Morris, but the All-American pitcher has wriggled out of several tough jams to shut out the Owls after allowing three runs in the first two innings. In the third inning, he extricated himself from a first-and-third jam with one out without a run scoring and also retired Jimmy Comerota with two outs in the sixth inning with Steven Sultzbaugh on third base.
Morris is at 87 pitches after six innings and Berry is at 91 pitches after six innings, so it will be interesting to see how long both pitchers continue in this tight game.
The ballyhooed battle between Rice's Ryan Berry and Kansas State's A.J. Morris hasn't lived up to its hype as Rice leads 3-2 after three innings.
The Owls jumped ahead with two runs in the first inning and added another in the second inning when Steven Sultzbaugh scored on a wild pitch. They have pounded out seven hits in the first three innings against Morris, who has allowed that many hits in only six of his 15 starts this season.
KSU is staying close thanks to a couple of clutch two-out hits that produced both of its runs. Jordan Cruz delivered a two-out single in the second to account for one run and Nick Martini added another two-out RBI single in the third.
Rice was poised for another big inning in the third when Chad Mozingo doubled with one out and advanced to third on Michael Fuda's single. But Morris pitched out of danger by getting Craig Manuel out on a popup and Sultzbaugh to hit an inning-ending groundout.
That was the most determined clutch effort by Morris in the game. We'll see if he can build on it from this point forward.
Morris, who brought a 13-1 record into the game, had trouble in the first inning as he repeatedly fell behind in the count. The Owls took advantage by pounding out three hits to start the game on singles by Brock Holt and Rick Hague and an RBI-double by Diego Seastrunk.
Another Rice run scored when Chad Mozingo beat out what could have been an inning-ending double play grounder on a close play at first base.
Rice starter Ryan Berry pitched a clean first inning and appears to have good stuff tonight. The Owls appear to have an early edge.
But it's going to be a little tough for the head baseball coach at nearby Humble High School to not feel a little proud. Especially when his former pitchers, A.J. Morris of Kansas State and Ryan Berry of Rice, square off in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
"I think this is gonna be about as cool as cool can get," said Sitton, who has coached at Humble for 25 seasons.
Morris was a year ahead of Berry in high school. During his senior season in 2005, he and Berry were key members of the Humble team that advanced to the regionals before being eliminated by Kingwood.
During a breakout season at KSU, Morris has developed into an All-American pitcher. He won his first 11 games en route to a 13-1 record with a 1.84 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings.
Berry has been almost as good, although he has struggled with a sore shoulder that kept him out for about six weeks earlier this season. Berry is 7-0 with two shutouts, allowing only 37 hits in 66 2/3 innings, and opponents have hit only .162 against him.
"I think both of those guys are in that small nest of the best guys who have come through here, especially because of what they have done in college," Sitton said. "If they advance and continue to play well in pro ball, I'll take my hat off to them and give them an 'at-a-boy.' Both are incredible kids from outstanding families."
Morris is throwing to his old high school catcher, Rob Vaughn, who played on those Humble teams as well.
Berry and Morris never thought they would face each other when they were playing on the same team in high school. But Sitton said that such a meeting might foreshadow other matchups after both players likely embark on professional careers.
"I think it's real possible for both of them," Sitton said. "Both of them are up on draft lists pretty high. Something that's happening today they might not have thought would happen this quick. But when you've been in baseball as long as I've been, you'll find out you'll face your friends."
And despite all of his former players seeing action in the pivotal second-round game, Sitton said he's going to remain neutral once the game begins.
"I'm going to be wearing neutral colors and just sitting behind home plate taking everything in," Sitton said. "What happens is supposed to happen."
After winning the first tournament game in the 109-season history of the Kansas State program on Friday, the Wildcats (42-16-1) will be looking to advance into the winners' bracket Sunday night.
To do so, they will have to beat Rice (40-15), which claimed its 13th straight regional game yesterday in a first-round victory over Sam Houston State.
The game will be played before a large crowd of Rice fans at Reckling Park -- and a few Humble fans who will be rooting for the Wildcats.
Here are the starting lineups. Kansas State will be the visiting team.
Kansas State Wildcats (42-16-1)
Adam Muenster DH
Carter Jurica 2B
Nick Martini LF
Justin Bloxom 1B
Jason King 3B
Drew Biery SS
Jordan Cruz RF
Rob Vaughn C
Dane Yelovich CF
A.J. Morris RHP (13-1, 1.84 ERA)
Rice Owls (40-15)
Brock Holt 2B
Rick Hague SS
Diego Seastrunk DH
Anthony Rendon 3B
Chad Mozingo RF
Michael Fuda LF
Craig Manuel C
Steven Sultzbaugh CF
Jimmy Comerota 1B
Ryan Berry RHP (7-0, 1.89 ERA)
HP: Jack Cox
1B: Dave Savage
2B: Mark Chapman
3B: Scott Cline
Weather conditions: partly cloudy, 91 degrees, 32 percent humidity, winds from the north at 4 mph.
After nailing down a save to preserve Xavier's first NCAA tournament victory in school history in a tight 9-6 win over Sam Houston State, Conley was more interested in the change in perception his program has produced among fans at the Houston Regional.
"It's always great to be the first," Conley said. "Hopefully this is the first of many to come. And maybe now, they know it's Xavier instead of Ex-avier."
The Musketeers (39-20) were introduced by an incorrect pronunciation earlier in the tournament. But their victory Saturday shows the grittiness and resolve of a team that advanced from the losers' bracket of last week's Atlantic 10 tournament to the NCAA tournament for the first time.
And their name was pronounced correctly at Saturday's game, too.
Neil Lindgren's long two-run homer in the seventh inning provided the margin of victory for the Musketeers with one out in the seventh inning. He ripped a fat 1-0 fastball from Matt Shelton deep over the left-field wall to give them the lead for good.
"Our coaches do a good job of giving us scouting reports of other teams," Lindgren said. "[Shelton] has a lot of movement with his slider. I went up there just trying to get a pitch I could drive. I was looking for a fastball and luckily, he threw one where I could hit it."
The big hit made a winner of Conley, who scattered three hits over the final 2 1/3 innings to claim the victory.
"Jordan stepped up huge for us in that situation," Xavier coach Scott Googins said. "He makes it interesting for us sometimes, but there's not another guy I'd rather have up there for us."
Conley started the game at shortstop before moving to pitcher to finish off one of the biggest victories in school history with a direct strategy of staying ahead in the count.
"I've been in that situation all year," Conley said. "They put me in there and I just wanted to do the best I can. I wanted to throw my best pitches and go from there. I've been pretty successful using that all season."
The loss ended the season for Sam Houston State (36-24), which lost two consecutive games in the tournament for the second straight season.
"I'm disappointed to end the season like this," Sam Houston State coach Mark Johnson said. "But I've got to give Xavier a lot of credit. Their shortstop came in and closed the door with that slider. It was a knee-buckler for our guys. He came at us hard."
After Sam Houston State had tied the score in the top of the seventh inning, Neil Lindgren's clutch two-run homer in the seventh gave Xavier the lead for good.
The Musketeers added another run in the eighth on a two-out single by Drew Schmidt.
Sam Houston State rallied to advance two runners into scoring position in the ninth inning after Brandon Riley's single and Ryan Zaleski's one-out double.
But Xavier first baseman Ben Thomas made a scintillating play to grab a high throw from third baseman John McCambridge to narrowly retire Jon Reed for the second out in the ninth.
Reliever Jordan Conley then whiffed Mark Wyatt for the game's final out.
Xavier (39-20) will advance to meet the loser of tonight's Rice-Kansas State game at 3 p.m. Sunday. The loss ends the season for Sam Houston State (36-24).
Lindgren jumped on a fat fastball delivered by Sam Houston reliever Matt Shelton and blasted it over the wall in left field for the lead with one out in the seventh inning.
The Xavier rally came after Sam Houston had pecked away to tie the score in its half of the seventh after trailing 6-2 after three innings.
Reliever Jordan Conley has six outs left in order to finish off the Musketeers' first NCAA tournament victory. Conley started the game as Xavier's shortstop.
Xavier got a gutty effort from starting pitcher Danny Rosenbaum, who scattered seven hits over 6 2/3 innings. Rosenbaum remained ahead in most counts, striking out nine in a gritty 124-pitch effort.
The Musketeers jumped to a quick 6-2 lead after three innings, but the Bearkats kept chipping away at the margin, adding three runs in the fourth and another in the seventh inning to tie the score.
Sam Houston State will need another rally or it will go two-losses-and-out for the second straight season in the NCAA tournament.
After bouncing back for two runs in the second inning and four runs in the third, the Musketeers have charged back to a 6-5 lead over Sam Houston State after four innings.
Sam Houston State jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in the first, scoring unearned runs after Xavier's John McCambridge opened the gates with an error. Jon Reed and Tyler Knight produced RBI singles against Xavier starter Danny Rosenbaum.
But Xavier charged back to tie the score in the second on a one-out two-run homer by designated hitter Bobby Freking. It was Freking's fourth blast of the season.
The Musketeers added four more runs in the third inning to knock out Sam Houston starting pitcher Brent Powers. Drew Schmidt and Jordan Conley provided run-scoring doubles to key the uprising.
Rosenbaum has been sharp, striking out six in the first four innings.
Sam Houston added three runs in the fourth inning. The highlight was a double steal that led to a run. Ryan Mooney broke from first base and appeared to stumble as he charged to second base. While that play drew a throw, Brendan Riley broke from third and beat the throw to steal home.
What could be next, the hidden ball trick?
Both teams will be hoping for better luck after losses in the first day of the Houston Regional. The Musketeers trailed 12-0 after three innings in the first NCAA tournament game in school history against Kansas State. Xavier battled back to make the game look respectable in a 16-8 loss, something that Xavier coach Scott Googins hopes will rebuild his team's confidence.
Sam Houston jumped ahead early before falling 5-2 against Rice in Friday's nightcap. The Bearkats are hoping to avoid losing two straight games for the second straight tournament after dropping both games in the Houston Regional last season.
For inspiration, Sam Houston State coach Mark Johnson only has to go back to 2007. Sam Houston State dropped its opening game to Mississippi before battling back from the losers' bracket to win games against Troy and Southern Mississippi before losing to Mississippi for a second-place finish. It was the school's highest finish in five previous tournament appearances.
Sam Houston State will start left-hander Brent Powers (3-2, 4.28 ERA) against Xavier lefty Danny Rosenbaum (5-5, 5.49). The stadium is barely a quarter full and it looks and sounds like most of the spectators are fans of the two schools.
Here's a look at the starting lineups:
Sam Houston State (36-23)
Braeden Riley 2B
Ryan Mooney 3B
Nick Zaleski LF
Jon Reed SS
Mark Wyatt C
Tyler Knight RF
Daniel Nottebart 1B
Heath Pugh DH
Adam De La Garza CF
Brent Powers LHP
Billy O'Conner C
Drew Schmidt 2B
Neil Lindgren RF
Ben Thomas 1B
Jordan Conley SS
Bobby Freking DH
Steve Brown LF
John McCambridge 3B
Adam Pasono CF
Danny Rosenbaum LHP
Weather conditions for the opening pitch: partly cloudy skies, 90 degrees, 35 percent humidity, winds from the northwest at 5 mph.