Sports Information Director
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The Holy Cross Saints baseball team opened up game one of their final three-game home series of the 2014 season on Friday evening against the Tigers of Olivet Nazarene University. Early offensive production gave the Saints an early lead but it was the workhorse mentality of starting pitcher Matt Schwitz (JR/Granger, Ind.) that helped guide the team to a 3-2 victory.
"Matt was a bulldog for us tonight," head coach Brian Blondell stated. "Just when you thought he might be done, he continued to go out there and shut guys down. His performance really helped us seal the victory in the first game of this series."
After holding the Tigers scoreless in the top of the first inning, the Saints bats quickly got to work. Jackson Hallahan (SR/Lester Prairie, Minn.) and Paul Kappaz (JR/Grosse Pointe, Mich.) both singled before advancing into scoring position on a wild pitch. It was then Jacob Lanning (JR/Roscoe, Ill.) who laced a single up the middle to bring home two early runs for the Saints in the bottom of the first. The damage would end in the first with a 2-0 lead on the visiting Tigers.
Olivet would respond in the second after a leadoff double turned in to their first run of the game, cutting the Saints lead to 2-1.
Both starting pitchers began to settle into a groove though the bottom of the second and top of the third. It was in the bottom of the third inning where Chris Woodruff (JR/Mishawaka, Ind.) led things off with a hit-by-pitch before advancing to second base on a stolen base. Another single from Jackson Hallahan would put Woodruff even closer to home as he advanced to third on the hit to left field. Hallahan would then swipe his seventh bag of the season, allowing Woodruff to advance home on the high throw to second, as the Saints extended their lead to 3-1.
Following a quick fourth inning, the Tigers opened up the top of the fifth with a walk and single to centerfield to quickly threaten the Saints lead. A sacrifice bunt then put both runners in scoring position. Matt Schwitz gave up one run in the inning on a sacrifice fly but was able to strand the potential tying run on the third base as the Saints held on to a 3-2 advantage.
The Saints turned two quick outs in the sixth inning into a great opportunity to extend their lead as three straight hitters reached base to load up the bases. A fielder's choice, however, would strand all three on base as the Saints were unable to capitalize on a two-out rally.
Despite his pitch count continuing to increase, Matt Schwitz continued to battle in the late stages of the game. He allowed just one base runner in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and headed out for an opportunity to complete the game in the top of the ninth.
The ninth inning proved to no easy task as the Tigers led off the inning reaching base following an error in the infield by the Saints. A sacrifice bunt advanced the runner to second base before he ultimately would take third on a steal. With the tying runner on third and just one out, Schwitz did not panic. A lazy ground out to second base stranded the runner at third and put two outs on the board.
With a pinch hitter at the plate, the tying run at third and the game on the line, Schwitz came up big as he did all game, striking out the batter to end the game with a 3-2 Saints win.
"It's always great to start off a series with a win," continued Blondell. "We stayed focused and picked each other up during the difficult spots. Matt pitched his best game of the year tonight and came up huge in the biggest spot. This win definitely gives us some solid momentum as we look towards Saturday."
Matt Schwitz (5-4, 3.78 ERA) completed all nine innings while allowing six hits, two runs and a season-high six strikeouts while throwing a season-high 135 pitches. Schwitz has now won five consecutive games in each of his last five outings.
Holy Cross (18-25, 12-6 CCAC) matches a program-best win total of 18 with Friday's 3-2 win over the Tigers.
The Saints will wrap up their three-game set, and 2014 home schedule, at Four Winds Field on Saturday, April 19 with a doubleheader beginning at noon EST. Following the conclusion of game one, the six-member senior class will be honored for their accomplishments and contributions to the Holy Cross baseball program.