Elwell's glove, bat helps Xavier beat Saint Louis 7-6; winning run unearned
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Fourth-seeded Xavier got an unearned run in the ninth inning to defeat top-seeded Saint Louis 7-6 in the 2013 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship on Thursday.
Trailing 6-5 entering the eighth inning, Mark Elwell belted the first home run of his career to tie the game
Xavier (32-24) then tallied the game-winning run an inning later. Patrick Paligraf led off with a single to center field and advanced to second on a sac bunt. He later scored with two outs when Saint Louis' Michael Bozarth misplayed Selby Chidemo's line drive to left field.
The late-inning drama wasn't over. With two outs in the final inning, Steve Fernandez sent a shot to deep center field that came just inches from being a game-tying home run. However, Elwell climbed the fence and got his glove on the ball, pulling it back into play and robbing Fernandez of the home run. The Billikens ended up with only a double on the play and Alex Vice induced a groundout to first base to close out the game.
Elwell's stellar defense started earlier in the game, when he made a diving catch on Braxton Martinez's hit to shallow center.
Xavier built up a 3-0 lead with runs in each of the first three innings. Vinny Nittoli drove in Elwell in the first inning, Elwell plated Mitch Elliott in the second and Paligraf laid down a squeeze bunt to score Nittoli.
Saint Louis (36-19) broke through with a run in the fourth and three more in the fifth. Fernandez delivered a double to right field to score Martinez and an inning later Alex Kelly hit a three-run homer to left field to push Saint Louis ahead 4-3.
Bozarth extended the Billikens' lead to two runs, 5-3, with a solo home run in the sixth. But, Xavier responded.
Joe Forney slapped his third hit of the game in the seventh and Elliott picked up his second hit to put runners on first and second with two down. Stephen Schoettmer came through with a single, scoring both runners and tying the game at 5.
Saint Louis loaded the bases in the home half of the seventh inning and pushed across a run when Alec Sole drew a walk that scored Grant Nelson to make it 6-5.
Vice earned the win for the Musketeers, finishing the final 2.1 innings to improve to 2-2 on the season.
Vice tossed 2.1 innings of relief to pick up the win and even his record at 2-2 on the season. Matt Eckelmann was saddled with the loss, dropping his record to 6-1 on the year.
Atlantic 10 Conference Athletics contributed to this report.