A RUN TO REMEMBER Xavier baseball's memorable 2016 surgE

A challenging non-conference schedule and some tough breaks put the Xavier baseball team in a bad spot entering a second week of BIG EAST action back in April.

Sitting at 14-26 and 1-3 in conference after a series-opening loss to St. John's, Xavier baseball head coach Scott Googins challenged his coaching staff and players to simplify their approach.

"Forget about our record. Let's just play."

The Musketeers mashed the next day, leaving the yard a season-high six times in an 11-8 win at Hayden Field. Senior Dan Rizzie left the yard twice in the game, beginning a monumental hot streak for both the catcher and his team.

From that point on, Xavier would win eight straight and, eventually, 18 of its final 22.

Back-to-back road sweeps of Butler and Seton Hall put the Musketeers in solid position to earn a spot in the four-team BIG EAST Championships, but a home series against preseason favorite Creighton stood in the way next.

The Bluejays won a tight game on Friday, but XU rebounded to win the series in dramatic fashion. Junior Joe Gellenbeck produced walk-off hits on Saturday and Sunday, vaulting the Musketeers into a tie for first in the league standings.

Joe Gellenbeck takes a bath after his second straight walk-off against Creighton.

Sitting 11-4 in the league and tied atop the BIG EAST standings with Creighton, XU welcomed Villanova to Hayden Field for its final regular season series.

Sophomore lefty Zac Lowther dominated the Wildcats all afternoon, going a career-high eight innings and tying his career-best with eight strikeouts.

Joe Gellenbeck was the hero for a third straight game, dumping an RBI single into right field in the eighth to give XU a 1-0 lead.

After a dramatic win to open the weekend, the Musketeers put themselves in position to clinch a title with a 15-10 win on Saturday.

It was a no-doubter in the weekend finale as Xavier clinched a regular season BIG EAST Championship for the first time in program history.

TWICE AS NICE: XU TAKES TOURNEY CROWN IN ABERDEEN, MD.

Xavier remained on fire heading into the BIG EAST Championships – hosted at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium – winning against St. John's and beating Creighton twice to grab a second title in three years.

Senior catcher Dan Rizzie had a memorable tournament and raked his way to Most Outstanding Player honors, going 5-for-5 with a run scored and a pair of RBI against Creighton in the title game.

He finished the tournament with a .571 (8-for-14) batting average, scoring four runs and driving in six – including a walk-off in against St. John's on Thursday and a crucial three-run double in Friday's win against Creighton.

After earning an off-day on Saturday by virtue of a 2-0 record against St. John's and Creighton, Xavier came back to face the Bluejays a second time in the title bout on Sunday. The Musketeers received two-run homers from Rylan Bannon and Joe Gellenbeck in the fourth inning, coming from behind and hanging on late to cap an exciting tournament.

Garrett Schilling coaxed the final out on a grounder to short, where BIG EAST Player of the Year Andre Jernigan made a big-time play to close the door on Creighton. Another dogpile ensued.

DANCING IN MUSIC CITY

After grabbing an automatic bid as BIG EAST Champions, the Musketeers learned their postseason fate the following Monday.

Xavier was placed in the NCAA Tournament Nashville Regional for the second time in three seasons. Hosted by Vanderbilt, the field also featured teams from Washington and UC Santa Barbara.

DANCING INTO THE REGIONAL FINALS

Playing at beautiful Hawkins Field, the Musketeers defeated top-seeded Vanderbilt by a score of 15-1 to open regional action.

Rylan Bannon swatted a grand slam in XU's tournament opener.

The Musketeers fell in game two to UC Santa Barbara, but rebounded to win that evening's elimination game against Washington, moving onto a regional final for the first time in program history.

Andre Jernigan hit his 14th homer of the season in the first inning of Xavier's 8-7 win over Washington.

Despite a season-ending loss to UCSB – an eventual College World Series participant – the Musketeers placed five players on the Nashville All-Tournament Team.

As a team, the Musketeers hit .317 (80-for-252) during postseason action with eight home runs and 47 RBI.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

After advancing to the regional final, Xavier put the most players on the Nashville Regional All-Tournament Team
Seniors (L-R) Andre Jernigan, David Morton and Dan Rizzie with BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman.

SCORCHING SENIORS

  • Xavier rode its three seniors during an 18-4 finish, as all three contributed in big ways down the stretch.
  • The threesome of Andre Jernigan, Dan Rizzie and David Morton combined to hit .395 (32-for-81) in seven postseason tournament games. The trio added 20 runs, three homers and 19 RBI.
  • Dan Rizzie hit .483 (14-for-29) with eight runs and eight RBI.
  • David Morton hit .462 (12-for-26) with seven runs, six RBI and a home run.
  • Andre Jernigan hit two home runs and collected five RBI.

A RECORD-SETTING SEASON

XU won the BIG EAST regular season and tournament titles for the first time in program history.
  • Xavier's 32 wins tied for the second-most in school history.
  • XU won two games in NCAA Tournament play for the first time, advancing to the program's first regional final.
  • The Musketeers finished the year with 18 wins in their final 22 games.
  • Xavier hit 59 home runs as a team, ranking among the national leaders and recording the fifth-most longballs ever by a Musketeer squad.
  • XU's fielding percentage of .974 tied a program record set in 2011.

GOOGINS SETS ALL-TIME WINS MARK

Head coach Scott Googins became the program's all-time wins leader with No. 288 on April 15 at Georgetown. He then won his 300th career game on May 19 against Villanova.

11th year head coach Scott Googins became XU's all-time wins leader as the Musketeers opened conference play at Georgetown on April 15.

INDIVIDUAL MILESTONES

Sophomore Garrett Schilling set a new school record with 14 saves. His 1.91 ERA was tied for eighth in a single season at XU.
(Clockwise from Top) Matt Fallon, Joe Gellenbeck and Andre Jernigan all tied the XU single-season record for games played with 62 apiece.
Dan Rizzie's 78 hits were tied for the eighth-most in a single season by an XU player.
Rylan Bannon and Andre Jernigan both ripped 17 doubles, tying them for 10th most in a single season at XU.
Andre Jernigan launched 14 homers, tying him for sixth all-time in a single season at XU. Joe Gellenbeck finished with 13, putting him in a tie for seventh.
Will LaRue stole 30 bases, ranking ninth in a single season by an XU player.
Zac Lowther had a solid season as a starter, tossing 102 innings (ninth), striking out 84 (sixth) and making 16 starts (tied for seventh) with a 3.09 ERA. He lasted at least five innings in 15 of his 16 outings.

POSTSEASON HONORS

Andre Jernigan was named a Louisville Slugger All-American, marking the second time in program history an XU player has earned the honor.
Andre Jernigan was named XU's first BIG EAST Player of the Year after leading the league in homers and slugging percentage.
(L-R) Dan Rizzie, Andre Jernigan, Rylan Bannon and Nate Soria each earned All-BIG EAST First Team honors.
(L-R) Zac Lowther, Garrett Schilling and Joe Gellenbeck each earned All-BIG EAST Second Team honors

MLB DRAFT

After a historic season, two Musketeers were selected in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft for the first time since 2008.

Dan Rizzie (13th round, New York Mets) and Andre Jernigan (14th round, Minnesota Twins) became the 11th and 12th XU players drafted under Googins, capping a memorable senior year for both.

XU has now had at least one player drafted in 10 of the last 12 years.

Senior shortstop Andre Jernigan was drafted in the 14th round by the Minnesota Twins.
Senior catcher Dan Rizzie was drafted in the 13th round by the New York Mets.

2016 XAVIER MUSKETEERS BASEBALL

  • 32-30 (14-4 BIG EAST)
  • BIG EAST Regular Season and Tournament Champions
  • NCAA Tournament Nashville Regional Finalists (2-2)
Created By
Brendan Bergen
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