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Marquee year ends quietly for baseball

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After final exams in May, Saint Louis University’s campus may have been cooling down, but baseball season was just heating up.

Despite an empty campus, the Billikens finished the season with a three game sweep of Dayton, solidifying the fifth seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in New Jersey.

The Billikens started the tournament with a 16-11 win over Fordham, a team that had taken two out of three from the Billikens earlier in the season. Even more shocking was SLU’s 12-9 victory over No. 2 seed Xavier in the conference semifinals.

But twice in the tournament – once in the second round, and again in the conference championship – the Billikens were faced with the conference’s top team, Charlotte.

The 49ers had just completed a three game sweep of the Billikens, only two weeks earlier. After SLU squeaked by Charlotte 3-2 in the second round of the tournament, the 49ers looked to regain their dominance in the A-10 Championship game on Sat., May 29.

Charlotte jumped out to an early lead in the conference championship game, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. But the Billikens responded in the bottom half of that inning, putting five runs on the board, thanks to an extended two-out rally. Those five runs would be all SLU needed to hang on to the 5-4 victory and secure the school’s first Atlantic 10 Baseball Championship since 2006.

Bryant Cotton, who started as pitcher in the second-round game and beat Charlotte, secured the save in the championship match. Cotton was named Most Outstanding Player for the tournament.

The A-10 title gave SLU an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and placed the Billikens as the bottom seed in the Louisville Regional.

In Louisville, the Bills jumped out to an early lead against the regional host Cardinals. A pair of back-to-back solo home runs from Danny Brock and Jon Myers gave SLU a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning against Louisville. But Cotton, who handled the Cardinals’ lineup with ease in the first four innings, gave up seven runs before exiting the game after six innings of work. Louisville went on to win the game 11-2.

The next day against No. 3 seeded Illinois State, the Billikens once again jumped out to an early lead by scoring in the bottom of the first inning on a Myers single. But Illinois State launched two home runs in the top of the second to jump out to a 4-1 lead. The Redbirds went on to hit five long balls, and win the game 8-3.

The Billikens finished the 2010 season with a 33-29 record, making it the first time in the program’s history to win 30 games in back-to-back years. Thirty-three wins also breaks the university’s record, bettering the previous mark set in 2006.

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Marquee year ends quietly for baseball