Fighting Saints gear up for NAIA #6 William Carey

Fighting Saints gear up for NAIA #6 William Carey

College of St. Joseph's baseball team faces the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' sixth ranked William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Tuesday, Feb. 20. The game is pegged to start at 3 p.m.

The last time the two teams squared off was exactly one year ago, on Feb. 20, 2017. Returning sophomore Brian Quezada notched an RBI and senior Ryan Cummings recorded two strikeouts during his two innings on the mound. For William Carey, now-senior Christian Smith drove in four runs after going 4-for-5 at the plate. The Fighting Saints look to avenge last year's 8-3 loss to the Crusaders.

CSJ is 2-2 on the season, playing each game in the past four days. The Fighting Saints struggled to overcome errors in their first contest against Delgado Community College and lost 10-1 on Feb. 15. But on Friday, Feb. 16, CSJ tasted sweet redemption by executing a stunning rally to earn their first win of the season, 6-5.

After four innings, the Saints accumulated a 5-0 deficit. At the mound for CSJ was Cummings, who kept the Saints competitive through five innings of action. Sophomore Zach Mattos came in for relief in the sixth inning. CSJ's offense came alive in the seventh inning. The Fighting Saints crossed home plate six times to take a 6-5 lead in dramatic fashion. Dillon Maxon notched a two-run single to give the Saints the lead. In the bottom of the seventh, an error put a Delgado player on base. The runner was sacrificed to second with Delgado's third and fourth batter next in line to the plate. Mattos struck out each batter and secured the win for the Fighting Saints. Between exquisite pitching and CSJ's defense, the Dolphins were unable to tally a run after the fourth inning.

On Saturday, Feb. 17, the Saints picked up their second win of the season. Senior Luis Ramos brilliantly executed his change-up, slider and curveball between fastballs to stymie hard-hitting Pensacola State, 7-5. John Loschiavo led the Fighting Saints offensively with three hits, Petar Rumora recorded two and Benny Pena tallied his first home run of the season.

The Saints earned an early 3-0 lead thanks in part to a two-run double by Loschiavo in the second inning. The two squads traded runs in the third to make it a 4-1 game, and then Pensacola sent two batters home in the fourth to close the gap, 4-3. CSJ responded with one run in the top of the fifth inning to make it a 5-3 ballgame before the Pirates' Griffin Rivers hit a two-run homer to tie the game at five. In the bottom of the sixth, Pena answered for the Saints with a 360-foot home run to regain a two-run lead. Jedion Cras executed a double play to secure the victory for the Fighting Saints.

William Carey is currently 8-2 on the season. Most recently, they captured an 11-0 win over Webber International on Feb. 17. Junior Tyler Reid led Carey at the plate going 3-for-3 with an RBI. Marcus Buckley, Jonathan Turner, and Wes Brown each collected two hits. Devin Smith pitched a complete game, giving up a scattered four hits and striking out seven batters.

In an earlier game on the same day, the Crusaders fell 4-3 to Campbellsville University. Carey rallied to push the game into extra innings, managing to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning. The first Carey run came on a wild pitch that allowed Tanner Estill to race home and the second run of the game was on a passed ball that allowed Marcus Buckley to score and cut the lead to 3-2. Christian Smith then tied the game at 3 on a fielder's choice as he beat the play at the plate. WCU was unable to push across the winning run as they left the bases loaded, and a Campbellsville player homered at the top of the eighth inning for the game-winning run.

The Crusaders finished the 2017 season with a 45-20 record and a trip to the NAIA World Series. Ranked ninth last year, the Crusaders won their first game of the tournament 11-8 over No. 8 Hope International University. In the next game, they fell 8-3 to No. 1 Oklahoma City University. WCU achieved a second upset in their third showing, defeating No. 7 University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma by the score of 6-5. Their next upset came in a 12-3 tilt against No. 6 Missouri Baptist University. The Crusaders ultimately fell to No. 5 Lewis-Clark State College 12-7. Lewis-Clark went on to win the 2017 NAIA World Series after defeating Faulkner University.

For access to live video of Tuesday's game, click the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9p8VSDraQoU