May 18, 2012
CINCINNATI - Junior righthander Kyle Mullen tossed a complete game, allowing an unearned run on seven hits while striking out nine, to lead the Saint Joseph's baseball team past Xavier, 5-1, at Hayden Field on Friday afternoon. With the win, the Hawks clinched their first-ever berth in the Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship, to be held next week at Fordham.
"Today is a great day for our program," said head coach Fritz Hamburg. "I am absolutely thrilled for our players, our alumni, and the University."
Hamburg reminded everyone, however, that the Hawks' work was not finished.
"We reached one of our goals in qualifying for the Atlantic 10 Championship," he said. "Now we will play as hard as we can tomorrow and then next week in the tournament...we're going up there to compete for the championship."
Mullen also etched his name into SJU history for another reason, setting a new Saint Joseph's record for innings pitched in a single season with 97.2 innings to date.
Saint Joseph's (23-29 overall, 13-9 Atlantic 10) opened the scoring in the top of the first for the second straight day, as once again Greg Kumpel came through with a hit, scoring Ryan Pater with a double to left center to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
The Hawks had chances to add to the lead in the second and third, putting runners on second and third with two outs in both frames, but Musketeer starter Jon Richard induced a groundout and strikeout, respectively, to end the innings.
Xavier (27-28 overall, 12-11 Atlantic 10) tied things up in the bottom of the sixth as a hit batsman, a double, and a fielding error, all with two outs, allowed Mark Elwell to score the equalizer. The Musketeers then loaded the bases, but Mullen fanned Daniel Rod to get out of the inning.
Kevin Taylor led off the seventh with his second home run in as many days, a towering fly ball down the right field line that put the Hawks back on top, 2-1.
SJU then loaded the bases with one out on an error and consecutive singles by Quinn Renner and Anthony Cirillo for pinch hitter Tommy Cunningham, who singled in Stefan Kancylarz to double the lead to two.
Two batters later, Lansing Veeder hit an RBI single of his own to score Renner and extend the margin to 4-1.
The Musketeers had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners on first and second with one out, but Derek Hasenbeck lined out to Mullen, who doubled Patrick Paligraf off of second base to end the threat.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Brian O'Keefe hit his second home run of the season to pad the lead.
Xavier had one last chance at a comeback as Seth Willoughby led off the ninth with a single, but Mullen struck out Rod and then induced a double play ball out of Mitch Elliott to send the Hawks into the conference tournament.
Mullen tied his career high with nine strikeouts and scattered seven hits and two walks to improve to 6-4 on the season. Adam Hall was charged with three runs in an inning and a third to fall to 1-1.
Mullen eclipsed the previous record for innings pitched in a season, 92.1, set by John Butz in 1965. He also passed another SJU legend, Jamie Moyer, for seventh place on the program's all-time strikeout list; the junior now has 175 in his career, surpassing Moyer's 170.
The win, coupled with other results around the league, clinched Saint Joseph's first berth in the Atlantic 10 Championship since joining the league for the 1983 season. The tournament begins on Wednesday, May 23, at Fordham's Houlihan Park in the Bronx.
The Hawks and Musketeers will wrap up the regular season on Saturday. SJU can clinch the fourth seed in the Championship and set a school record for conference victories in a season with a win in the finale, which is set to begin at noon at Hayden Field.