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SLU loses opener, but wins nightcap to advance in A-10 Baseball Tourney

The SLU Billikens went 1-1 on Thursday to advance to Day 3 of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Baseball Tournament at the Billiken Sports Complex in St. Louis.
The SLU Billikens went 1-1 on Thursday to advance to Day 3 of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Baseball Tournament at the Billiken Sports Complex in St. Louis.Image courtest Saint Louis University media relations dept.

Survive and advance is the mantra of every college baseball team this time of year.

The postseason doesn't work the same as it does in pro baseball, where teams play three-, five-, or seven-game series. It also doesn't use the same plan most fans are accustomed to when following other college sports, which almost all use the winner-or-go-home, single-elimination format for its tournaments.

In college baseball, it takes two losses to dash a team's tournament hopes. And the great benefit to that is if one team -- even a great team like the three-time Atlantic 10 Conference regular season champion Saint Louis University Billikens -- lays an egg and gets beat, that team will get a second chance to redeem itself and hopefully reach its goal of winning a championship.

On Thursday, that's exactly how things went for SLU, which lost its 2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament opener, 9-4, to Virginia Commonwealth, but came back to win later, 12-2, over Fordham.

The Billikens, who came into the A-10 Tourney as the No. 1 seed and with it, enjoyed an automatic bye into Day 2 of the event, jumped out to an early 1-0 lead against VCU on a solo home run by sophomore Michael Bozarth.

But the No. 4 seed Rams scored six times over the next three innings off SLU ace James Norwood, to break open a game many had pegged as a potential pitcher's duel.

Norwood, who fell to 8-2 on the season in his first start after being named First-Team All A-10 on Monday, lasted just five innings and gave up nine hits and walked two to take the loss.

VCU's JoJo Howie also gave up nine hits, but only allowed two SLU runs to improve his personal record to 7-3 this year.

The victory earned VCU a berth in the winner's bracket championship game on Friday against George Mason. The winner of that contest will automatically advance to Championship Saturday, needing to win just once on the final day to claim the league championship.

The loser of that contest, will have to play a second game Friday night against a yet to be determined opponent for the right to play on Saturday as well.

The loss for SLU, meant the Billikens had to win to keep their season alive in an elimination game against seventh-seeded Fordham, which lost to second-seeded Saint Joseph's on Wednesday, but came back to win an elimination game of their own against six-seeded Dayton on Thursday morning.

That game was supposed to be the final matchup of the night at the Billiken Sports Complex on Wednesday, but after a long rain delay forced other games to take much longer than expected, the decision was made to move the Fordham-Dayton game to Thursday morning and play it at another location, which turned out to be the home field at nearby SIU-Edwardsville.

The extra travel and long night of waiting to find out when and where they might play seem to catch up to Fordham, which got pounded with a 15-hit barrage by the Billikens.

Six different SLU players had at least two hits, including leadoff man Danny Brennan, who blasted his fifth home run of the season, in a four-run seventh, which helped the Billikens break the game wide open.

Freshman first baseman Drew Curtis hit his third homer of the season in the ninth to provide SLU with its final runs of the night.

Junior starter Damian Rivera earned his first complete-game victory as a Billiken, by holding Fordham to just two runs on nine hits and two walks.

The lefty from Miami is now 6-4 on the season.

SLU now owns a 33-20-1 record on the season, and will play Saint Joe's in a midday elimination game at the Billiken Sports Complex on Friday, with the winner advancing to play a second elimination game against the losing team from the VCU-George Mason contest.