By Jason Maholy
Saint Xavier pitcher Jared Jones tossed the 13th no-hitter in Cougars history when he shut down Rochester (Mich.) in the first game of doubleheader on March 6 in Winter Haven, Fla.
SXU won the opener 4-0, and followed that with another shutout, 10-0, courtesy of junior right-hander Nelson Munoz and sophomore righty Isaiah Rivera, to keep Rochester winless on the season.
Jones, a junior right-hander who prepped at Joliet Catholic, recorded six strikeouts and walked two over the seven-inning complete game for his first win of the season. He walked a batter in each of the first two innings before retiring the final 13 hitters.
In the opener, the Cougars took the lead with a run in the bottom of the second when Drew Hunniford doubled home Garrett Bright.
Junior outfielder Mike Farnan, of Palos Hills, extended the lead in the bottom of the fifth with his third home run of the season to put SXU in front 3-0. Matt Monahan’s sacrifice fly in the sixth closed out the scoring.
In Game 2, the offense pounded out 17 hits, with six players getting two or more. The Cougars scored in each of the first three innings, beginning when Evergreen park alum Mark Martin hit an RBI single in the top of the first.
SXU added two more runs in the second, with RBI singles from Monahan and Martin, then two more in the third with Griffin Bright’s two-run single.
Saint Xavier scored three more runs in the fifth and two in the seventh.
The Cougars didn’t fare nearly as well in the following series during a three-game set over two days against Southeastern (Fla.), the No. 1-ranked team in the NAIA.
Southeastern topped Saint Xavier 8-3 in the series opener on March 7 in Lakeland, Fla.
Hunniford belted his second home run of the year, a two-run shot in the top of the third, to tie the game at 2-2. Southeastern, however, struck back with a run in the bottom of the third, and two more in both the fifth and seventh innings to build up a 7-2 lead.
Saint Xavier had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh after a pair of leadoff walks and a single from Farnan, but a double play ended the threat.
Sophomore southpaw Jake Ruppert got the start, allowing 11 hits 4 1/3 innings, but kept SXU in the game by stranding six runners.
The Cougars were competitive the following day in the first game of a twin-bill against Southeastern, before falling 3-1. The Flames won the nightcap 12-4.
Junior righty Tim Brokop threw 5 1/3 in the opener, allowing three hits and striking out six. Martin and Garrett Bright each had a pair of hits on the day, with Martin driving in the lone run for the Cougars.
Saint Xavier struck first in the third, when Martin drove in Bight with a double. A solo shot for Southeastern (18-3) in the bottom of the fourth tied the game at one.
The Cougars placed two runners on base in each of the last four innings, but were unable to push a run across. The Flames took the lead for good in the sixth when a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly made it 3-1.
Six home runs off of Southeastern bats in Game 2 doomed the Cougars. Saint Xavier scored three times in the top of the third, with Garrett Bright scoring on a wild pitch, Monahan hitting an RBI double, Agustin Guerrero driving in Monahan with a two-out single to give the Cougars a 3-2 edge.
Southeastern responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning, and three more in the bottom of the fifth to take control. Zach Pirc, Justin Hunniford and C.J. Gloff combined to throw 2 1/3 of relief with one hit and no earned runs allowed.
The Cougars entered this week 8-8, with six of those losses coming against teams ranked in the top 3 of the NAIA Top 25 Coaches' Poll.
Justin McCarthy had a career-high 17 kills to help the Cougars men's volleyball team set a new program record with its 13th victory with a straight-set win over Viterbo (Wisc.), 25-22, 25-23, 25-20.
McCarthy finished the night with a .448 hitting percentage, narrowly missing out on the double-double with nine digs. Ben Gabor did earn a double-double, with 13 kills and a team-high 14 digs, while Jake Olson collected 40 assists as the team's primary setter.
The Cougars (13-4, 5-2 CCAC entering this week) led the first set start-to-finish after jumping out to a 5-1 lead. Viterbo rallied to tie the game at 13-13, but two kills from Gabor highlighted a 8-3 run that put the Cougars in front 21-16. The V-Hawks scored six of the last 10 points, but Saint Xavier held on for the win.
Viterbo led Game 2 15-11, but kills from Andrew Bergstrand and Brother Rice alum Kyle Springer started a run to pull the Cougars to within one, at 16-15. A Springer kill gave SXU its first lead at 22-21, and he closed out the set with another kill.
The Cougars used a rally midway through the third set, scoring eight in a row to double-up the V-Hawks, 16-8. Viterbo would out-score the Cougars the rest of the way, but ran out of time. McCarthy secured the win with a kill to end the match.
The Cyclones fell 93-83 to Milwaukee Area Tech in the NJCAA Region IV semifinals on March 3.
Moraine was its own worst enemy against the No. 16-ranked Stormers, missing 16 free throws and getting only 10 minutes from starter Cortez King, who got into foul trouble.
Michael Drynan, of Evergreen Park, led the effort with 24 rebounds, 17 points and seven blocks. Jalen Hughes had 16 points and six assists while Maurice Chambers had 14 points and Elijah Ward finished with a 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Information provided by the Moraine Valley and Saint Xavier University athletic departments was used to compile this report.