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Play Ball: Xavier baseball starts season at UNC

By Danny O'malley
On February 22, 2012

The Xavier men's baseball team began their 2012 season by traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C. this past weekend and playing the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels in three games. During the Friday double-header the Musketeers lost the first game 10-2 and then came back and won the second game with a score of 10-3.

Saturday's game ended with the Musketeers losing again except this time in an offensive onslaught with a final score of 16-10.

This season the majority of the Musketeers' starting rotation will be returning with redshirt sophomore Vinny Nittoli, junior Jon Richard and redshirt junior Tyler Koors.

Last season, the three players had a combined record of 17-11. The Musketeers will be looking for these three to lead the pitching staff as the season goes forward.

This weekend Nittoli started and earned a loss in the opener on Friday, Richard pitched the next game receiving a win, and Koors was recorded a loss when he started Saturday's game.

In Richard's win, he pitched five innings giving up three earned runs on four hits.

On the offensive side, four open position spots became vacant due to graduation.

"Right now we are still trying to figure out who's playing where. We have some good options but no one has stepped up and won a spot," head coach Scott Googins said.

As far as the returning starters go, sophomore first baseman Brian Bruening and junior third baseman Seth Willoughby will be looking to bring their offensive skill-sets back this season.

Last season Bruening led all players with a .327 batting average while Willoughby posted a .326 batting average and also lead the team with five homers.

Over the weekend Willoughby went 5-for-9 and hit a homerun down the left field line during game one on Friday.

The redshirt junior and outfielder Mark Elwell is one of the returning starters and while he posted a perfect fielding percentage last year, he also hit well. This past weekend he ended game two with three RBIs on two hits.

A bright spot was found in the bat of freshman catcher Derek Hasenbeck. While he only played in the second and third games over the weekend he performed well. During these games he posted five RBIs and went 5-for-7 at the plate.

This weekend the team will travel to Charleston, S.C. to face Connecticut, Rhode Island and the College of Charleston.

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