By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
The Xavier baseball team came up empty in their season opening series this past weekend against #20 Oregon, losing their first four games of the season.
Xavier entered the series as clear underdogs, with the Ducks opening the season ranked and sporting one of the best offenses in the country. Last season, they went 36-25, placing 4th in the PAC-12 and making it to the second round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
In the first game of the series last Friday, both teams were locked in a pitcher’s duel. Senior pitcher Ethan Bosacker had an excellent season debut, striking out six and allowing only one hit across seven innings. The seven inning outing tied the longest of his career, which came last year against Creighton in the Big East tournament.
Despite recording only three hits, a home run by Carter Hendrickson and a bases-loaded walk gave Xavier a 2-1 lead in the 5th inning. But in the 8th inning, outfielder Owen Diodati knocked in the game tying run off of Bryce Barnett, and would hit a sacrifice fly to send in the walk-off winner in the bottom of the 9th. This is the second year in a row Diodati has walked off against Xavier on opening day, with him delivering the game-winner with the Alabama Crimson Tide last year.
The teams met again in a double-header the following day and Xavier got off to a rocky start to start the afternoon. The Oregon bats would come alive early, and the Ducks would hit three home runs and plate 9 runs over the first four innings against pitcher Brant Alazaus. Xavier would respond in the 5th with RBIs from Garrett Schultz and Jack Housinger, but it would be too little too late as the Muskies lost 9-2.
The second half of the doubleheader saw the bats finally come alive, but not enough runs to match the Ducks. Housinger would hit his first home run of the season to give Xavier an early 1-0 lead in the third, but Oregon would tie it up off of pitcher Justin Loer, and take a commanding 5-1 lead with a four-run 5th inning. Despite Xavier finishing with 10 hits, they would only be able to plate two more off of an error and a home run by Teddy Deters, stranding 13 on base and losing the second game of the doubleheader.
Xavier played the finale on Sunday, and was yet again locked in another pitcher’s duel. The Musketeers’ Nick Boyle had an excellent outing, allowing one hit and striking out five over 4.2 innings. Xavier was able to steal a run from Ducks ace Jackson Pace after an RBI double by Carter Hendrickson, that was all the offense they could muster. Reliever Luke Bell would give up the game-tying and go-ahead home runs in the 7th and 8th as the Musketeers lost the series finale 3-1.
Xavier’s early-season woes are not unfamiliar, with the Musketeers beginning the season on a 9-game losing streak last year before winning 13 of 17 to get back to .500. The Muskies will hope to get their first win of the season in Louisville this week as they take on the Cardinals on Wednesday.