After dispatching Savannah State earlier in the afternoon, #1-seeded Xavier University of Louisiana rallied 7-5 against Florida Memorial Friday night in the Black College World Series, a new baseball tournament hosted by BCSG360 and Black College Nines at Riverwalk Stadium in Montgomery.
“This is monumental,” said head coach Adrian Holloway after the victory, which puts the Gold Rush at 25-8 on the season—their first in over 60 years, after reviving the sport in 2019.
“It’s a great win for the university and a great win for the program.”
With their latest triumph on the diamond, XULA earns a spot in the final against Bluefield State, who defeated them 4-1 in a heartbreaker on Thursday night.
“We gotta hit better than the last time we played them,” said Holloway.
In that game, the Gold Rush’s star pitcher Blair Frederick dazzled with 17 strikeouts to no avail, but last night’s freshman starter Juwan Fitch—cousin to Black Catholic gospel stars Dwight & Connie—had a night of his own, holding FMU scoreless for four innings after struggling in the second.
He allowed 4 runs in that inning with a series of walks, wild pitches, and base hits allowed, but XULA responded immediately with three runs of their own, keeping the game close.
The Lions would only score once more in the game, as Fitch recovered mightily and his relief Trey Clark closed things out.
An RBI from XULA catcher Tristan Rodriguez tied things up 4-4 in the 5th, before FMU scored their final run in the top of the 7th. A series of web gems in the outfield for XULA preserved the close game with men on base, before they just missed an RBI with two outs in the bottom of the inning.
(They were called out at home on a close—but ultimately correct—call, one of many such plays in the game which occasioned groans and even heckling from the notably lively crowd late into the night.)
An explosive 8th inning for the Gold Rush bats quickly ended all dispute and put them up for good, sending the Lions home and NAIA baseball’s newest member to higher heights.
XULA will face Bluefield, who has yet to lose in the double-elimination BCWS, in their rematch today at 1pm CST—followed by another contest at 5pm should XULA prevail.
Asked who will start at pitcher, Holloway played coy, saying they’ll “pitch by committee”.
“We’re gonna probably throw a little bit of everybody at them.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).