CAMDEN, N.J. – The No. 4 Xavier baseball team rallied against No. 5 Richmond, but were unable to make up an early deficit and lost 5-4 in the opening game of the 2011 Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship at Campbell Field.
The Musketeers (30-26) will play in an elimination game Wednesday night against the loser of the No. 3 Dayton and No. 6 La Salle matchup. The Spiders (27-25-2) advance to the face top seed Charlotte Thursday at Noon.
Senior Ben Thomas became Xavier's all-time leading home run hitter with a solo in the fourth inning. The towering shot was the 44th career long ball for the left-handed slugger, who became Xavier's first Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tuesday.
Xavier starter Jon Richard (5-5) had one of his better nights on the mound, but still suffered the loss. The sophomore lefty struck out a career-high eight in seven innings of work. He allowed five earned runs though on eight hits.
Spiders' reliever Andrew Brockett (3-4) was credited with the win. Brockett worked 2.2 innings and helped extinguish the Musketeers' threat in the fifth.
Richmond started the scoring with three runs on two outs in the third. Back-to-back singles through the right side and a wild pitch preceded Mike Mergenthaler's two-run single and a sharp double off the glove of Xavier sophomore third baseman Patrick Paligraf gave the Spiders an early 3-0 advantage.
Thomas pulled Xavier within two runs with a towering shot to right that cleared the signage in right field. It started off what looked to be a promising inning for Xavier who followed it three straight singles. Richmond starter Anthony Cafagna escaped trouble by recording a fly out and two soft liners.
A sacrifice fly and single pushed Richmond's lead to 5-1 in the fifth inning. Xavier came back with a run-scoring double by senior Phil Bauer. Brockett then came on the Spiders to get the final two outs and stranded two Musketeer runners. Xavier left 12 total runners on base during the game.
The Musketeers had run scoring innings in the seventh and eighth to make the score 5-4.
Sophomore Mark Elwell began the seventh by singling up the middle. He advanced to second on a walk, and moved to third on Bauer's fly out to right. Elwell then beat home a wild pitch in the dirt to make it a two-run game.
Xavier loaded the bases to start of the run-scoring eighth inning. Freshman Selby Chidemo led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Paligraf then walked and moved to second on a bunt by sophomore Mitch Elliott. Confusion between the Spiders right side of the infield resulted in Elliott reaching first.
A fielder's choice groundout allowed Chidemo to score, and more importantly kept a runner at third base with less than two outs.
Head coach Scott Googins then called for a squeeze bunt, which senior John McCambridge executed to perfection. Richmond pitcher Jacob Mayers quickly fielded the ball and flipped home just in time to get Paligraf.
Xavier threatened again with two runners in the ninth but was unable to scratch across the game tying run.