NEW YORK -- A standout performance by freshman hurler Trent Astle lifted the Xavier baseball team to a 5-0 win over Creighton on Sunday in the Big East Tournament championship game.
It also secured the program's second-ever berth in the NCAA tournament field.
"So unbelievably proud of this group and what they have accomplished, and so grateful to be a part of it!!" tweeted assistant coach Billy O'Conner after the game. "Incredible day. (Big East Champs)."
Astle (5-4) went the distance at MCU Park in Brooklyn, allowing only five base runners in leading the Musketeers to a league title in their first year in the conference. The southpaw allowed only three hits on the day.
Xavier's offense staked the freshman starter to a lead in the middle innings with two runs in the third and another in the fourth. They closed out the scoring with a two-run fifth inning.
Third baseman Stephen Schoettmer accounted for three of the Musketeers' runs, driving in two and scoring another. First baseman Joe Forney and catcher Daniel Rizzie each drove in a run for the Muskies.
The win over the Bluejays not only gives Xavier (29-27) the league championship, but it also secures their berth in the 2014 NCAA tournament. The 2009 team that earned the school's first NCAA appearance went 1-2 in the opening round after winning the Atlantic 10 tournament crown.
A trip to the NCAA tournament for XU seemed rather improbable coming into the weekend, as they'd dropped eight of their last 10 coming into this weekend's action.
That late-season sputter included the last two games of a three-game series against Creighton (32-17-1) that closed out the regular season. Xavier also lost the first game of the Big East tournament to the Bluejays, who were favored by many to earn the automatic berth into the NCAA field.
But the Muskies showed their grit and several bats got hot at the right time.
Senior outfielder Mitch Elliott went 2-for-4 and scored a run on Sunday, but his tournament-long performance earned him recognition as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Xavier's leadoff hitter went went 8-for-18 (.444) at the dish, with two extra-base hits, four RBIs and three runs scored over the course of the four games in New York City.
Teammates Sean Campbell, Derek Hasenbeck, Rizzie, Forney and Astle joined Elliott on the all-tournament team.
XU will learn its NCAA destination and opening-round opponents Monday, when the field is announced on ESPNU at noon. Louisville or Indiana (Bloomington, Indiana) are both possible regional round destinations.