By Ed Cassiere, Xavier (LA) Associate Athletics Director for Strategic Communications
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Xavier University of Louisiana scored its second-biggest comeback of the baseball season, rallying from four runs down Friday evening for a 7-5 victory against Florida Memorial in the semifinals of the Black College World Series at Riverwalk Stadium.
It was the second victory of the day in an elimination game for XULA (25-8), which needs two victories Saturday against Bluefield State to win the tournament. They’ll meet at 1 p.m., with Bluefield State — a 4-1 winner Thursday against XULA — needing only one win to capture the tournament championship.
XULA never led until the eighth inning, when it scored the final three runs to erase the Lions’ 5-4 lead. A throwing error with the bases loaded tied the score, then pinch-hitter Michael Sonn’s sacrifice fly — Sonn’s first RBI since March 26 — scored Danny Coleman with the go-ahead run. Nine-hole hitter Jonathan Santos singled home Blair Frederick with the final run.
It was XULA’s biggest comeback victory since winning 18-14 at Stillman Feb. 26 after an 11-3 deficit through four innings.
Although he did not earn a decision, XULA starting pitcher Juwan Fitch held the Lions scoreless for four consecutive innings after allowing four runs in the second. He pitched through the seventh.
“I did what I could to keep us in the game,” Fitch said. “I just had to push through. I knew it was not going to be easy.”
Fitch’s teammates helped the push by scoring three times — on a wild pitch, an infield single and a double-play grounder — in their half of the second, then getting stellar defensive work from Courtland Posey in left field and Dillon Cousin at first base.
Florida Memorial did not score in the fourth after putting two men on base and got only one run in the seventh — that gave the Lions their last lead at 5-4 — despite loading the bases with one out.
Trey Clark, who pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth in relief of Fitch, earned the decision.
Fitch threw 133 pitches against Florida Memorial and, like earlier XULA tournament starters Blair Frederick (six innings) and Nigel Mayfield (nine innings), would not appear to be a candidate to pitch Saturday. But Fitch was lobbying for another opportunity.
“I had ice on my arm after I came out of the game, and maybe I’ll do some arm stretches in my room when we get back to the hotel,” Fitch said. “I feel fine. I know the coaches aren’t thinking about me as an option, but I’ll be ready for anything Saturday. If the coaches need me for one inning or for one batter, I’ll be ready.”