Xavier Base Steals Bid to Big Dance

 Musketeers slug into NCAA Baseball Championship berth led by Housinger, pitchers

By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer

Xavier’s 2023 baseball campaign came to its storybook ending in June, as the Musketeers defeated the Connecticut Huskies in a winner-take-all Game 7 to win their first Big East Championship and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017.

Coming off their second consecutive championship game loss, Xavier entered the 2023 season ranked third in the Big East with no first place votes behind Creighton and UConn. This season was also be the last for veteran Xavier players such as Jack Housinger and Andrew Walker, both of whom have been in the program since 2019.

The Musketeers struggled out of the gate to begin the season, losing their first five games, and were 10-12 two games into their final series in March. But after a dramatic win in the finale against #24 West Virginia, Xavier set off on an 11-game winning streak.

Xavier  retained momentum, winning 13 of their last 23 games and finishing second in the Big East standings, entering the tournament with a 34-22 record. 

After defeating the Seton Hall Pirates in the opening round, the Musketeers steamrolled UConn to secure a championship round berth.

In a rematch against the Huskies, Xavier dropped the first game 6-4, leading to a winner-take-all Game 7 for the title. Xavier would enter the 9th inning down 3-2. After left-handed pitcher Carter Hendrickson and third baseman Grant Stephenson got aboard, Jack Housinger hit a triple to right field, scoring both the tying and go-ahead runs after being down to their final three outs. Xavier plated five runs in the 9th, winning the ball game and the conference tournament in picture-perfect fashion.

In an interview with WCPO 9 News, Housinger, who was awarded the Jack Kaiser Big East Most Valuable Player of the Tournament, remarked “Before you go to bed the last however many years, you play that moment in your head like, ‘What’s it gonna be like? You just act it out so many times in your head and then it just happens, and it’s amazing.”

 “Mr. Xavier” finished his collegiate career with the Musketeers holding the program title for most games played (238), most at-bats (870) and most walks drawn (193).

Xavier was selected as the three seed in the Nashville Regional, hosted by Vanderbilt. After dropping the opener to Oregon, Xavier would blank Eastern Illinois on the back of a complete game shutout and stun the hosting #6 Vanderbilt in a 2-1 pitcher’s duel, with sophomore relief pitcher Justin Loer re-entering the game after a four hour rain delay to get the save in the 9th inning. The Musketeers fell to the Ducks in the Regional Final, ending their season with a 39-25 record, tying for the most wins in program history.

This run was aided by successful offense, defense and pitching. At the plate, eight of Xavier’s nine players who played in at least 40 games either averaged .250 or higher at the plate or had an on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage of at least .750. Defensively, Xavier finished second in the Big East in fielding percentage, only five ticks behind Creighton at .978. These stats paved the way for eight All-Big East team selections, with Andrew Walker, Matt DePrey and Brant Alazaus notably making the First Team.

Xavier brought to the table arguably the most potent three-pitcher starting rotation in program history with Brant Alazaus, Ethan Bosacker and Luke Hoskins splitting reps.

 Alazaus and Bosacker both recorded an ERA under four and combined for a record of 17-6, becoming the third and fourth pitchers in program history to record triple-digit strikeouts in a season (101, 102). Both also recorded complete-game shutouts: Alazaus against Creighton and Bosacker against EIU. Hoskins finished his season with a 7-2 record, with his magnum opus coming in tournament time as he held an electric Vanderbilt offense to just one run off three hits in the win.