The number seven has many positive and meaningful connotations attached to it. There are seven days in a week. There are seven virtues according to the Bible. There seven levels of heaven in Islam. James Bond is 007. You get seven points for a touchdown and an extra point.
The number seven can also be a gloomy digit. There are seven deadly sins. The worst convenience store in the galaxy begins with the number. Plus, I bet Brad Pitt still wishes he had never heard of the number seven or boxes for that matter. The number seven is especially harrowing when its plastered in the loss column next to a zero. That's just the sort of devastation that has become of Xavier's baseball program's record. A weekend visit to Mercer heaped on three more losses to the four the Musketeers collected in the first weekend of the season against Arizona State. Now, let's unpack that series. But be forewarned, you might not like what you find in there.
Before we start cursing out Morgan Freeman and putting bullets in Kevin Spacey's head, let's look on the bright side, shall we? For starters, Xavier wasn't exactly blown away by Mercer. The three losses were by a total of six runs and Xavier managed to lead for 5 1/2 innings all together during the weekend. Much of that was thanks to the bat of shortstop Andre Jernigan, who absolutely raked. He went 6-for-14 with two home runs and four RBI across the three games. Jernigan was quiet against Arizona State, but he is now batting .345 and slugging at a .655 clip. He leads the team with 10 hits and 19 total bases. However, he has also struck out more than anyone else on the team (10).
Jernigan wasn't the only reason the offense got going a little bit, particularly when the Musketeers scored 14 runs in Sunday's series finale. Scott Googins clearly wants to be aggressive on the base paths in hoping it will get a few more runs across. The Musketeers stole 18 bases over the weekend, including four from Will LaRue alone, and now have 21 on the season.
Sophomore Zac Lowther, a left-handed hurler from Brooklyn Heights, bounced back from a rough start to the season by tossing seven sparkling innings Friday. He allowed just one run and struck out seven batters. Unfortunately, Mercer pulled out a 3-1 victory to spoil such a quality start. The effort pushed his ERA for the season from 7.20 to a more respectable 3.75.
Holding leads is arguably the most important part of baseball. As George Washington once told Alexander Hamilton in the baseball-centric version of "Hamilton" I am currently writing in my head, "Getting ahead is easy, son, winning is harder." Lowther's one blemish on Friday was a home run from Mercer center fielder Kyle Lewis. The Musketeer bats then stayed quiet and Mercer escaped with a 3-1 win on a two-run home run from Trey Truitt off Garrett Schilling.
That loss was more a bat problem than an arm problem. Sunday's 18-14 slugfest can be placed squarely at the feet of Xavier's bullpen. Starter Trent Astle let a 4-0 lead slip away, but Xavier rallied back to take an 11-7 advantage in the fourth inning. Everything fell apart in the sixth and seven innings. Trey Schramm, Brad Kirschner and Sam Czabala were lit up for 10 runs combined. As a team, Xavier has an ERA of 6.87 and a bullpen ERA of 5.81. Iffy pitching will fail you far more often than a shortstop with pop or aggressive base running will win the day.
To be fair to Xavier, despite suffering another sweep, the second series of the season was a promising step forward. The bats woke up some, Jernigan looked great, an aggressive approach running the bases paid dividends and, in all, the Musketeers looked more like a competitive team than a team made up of toddlers with their arms tied behind their backs. A three-game series against USC Upstate this weekend will give them an opportunity to prove they can be a winning team.