Before we begin, feel free to peruse the series preview of when we faced Xavier earlier this season. It'll learn you a thing or two.
The School: Xavier University
Location: Cincinnatti, Ohio
The Mascot: The 16th century Basque Jesuits/Mouseketeers.
(Robes on; robes off.)
Record: 30-28, 14-4 in Big East play. That last part would be impressive in basketball. In baseball, it's just sad that this conference wasn't taken outside and shot during realignment. It's markedly worse than the Big East in football. There are 7 teams in this conference, and one of them gets an automatic bid in the NCAA Tourney. Someone should look into changing this.
How'd They Get Here?: Beat literally two other teams in the Big East Tournament. It was three games long. I assume the paused for lunch and got it over in a day.
Best Win: Xavier took 4 of 5 on the season from #46 RPI Creighton, including 2 wins in the conference tournament. Seeing as their 2nd best win was taking 1 of 3 from #118 RPI Morehead State, it's safe to say that Xavier's schedule wasn't exactly daunting, and when they played actual tournament teams (Vanderbilt, Louisville, Arizona State, and Mercer), they lost every time. However, you have to tip your hat to them... in a one bid conference, where everyone pretty much thought the frontrunner was Creighton, they made them their bitch.
Most Embarrassing Loss: There's not really one embarrassing loss that stands out (as there were many losses to teams higher than 150 on the RPI), but I'll say it was opening their season 0-7 against Arizona State and Mercer, and then the only wins in their first 12 games happening against University of South Carolina Upstate (Motto: Yes, we exist. Seriously. We know you've never heard of us.).
Most Terrifying Batter(s): There really isn't anyone who should terrify us in this lineup, as we shut them down pretty easily in the three game series earlier this season... however, this is an established category, and I have to name somebody. Against the terrible teams Xavier faced, three Mouseketeers put up some good power numbers: 1) #3 Sr. Catcher Daniel "The Grand Inquisitor" Rizzie (.312/.373/.472 with 9 HR), 2) #19 Joe "To Hell and Back" Gellenbeck (.287/.350/.517 with 13 HR), and 3) #9 Andre "The Love Below" Jernigan (.262/.366/.573 with 13 HR). As a team, Xavier is hitting only .259 (their opponents are hitting .283 off their pitchers), but they do hit a fair number of dingers, with 54 on the year. Jordan Sheffield will need to keep this in mind on Friday, and keep it low in the zone so they aren't saying, "Hepatitis C you later."
Rizzie, however, is quite cromulent with the glove, and is a pretty nice catcher. He's their best player all around, and it's not particularly close.
Pitcher Most Likely to Feast on the Bottom Third of the Vanderbilt Lineup: Xavier's best starting pitcher is #34 So. LHP Zac Lowther (Of the Hill People). On the season, he's 6-5 with a 3.22 ERA. He's not really a strikeout pitcher (7.2 K/9), and there's nothing he does that scares you, really. However, he is a lefty who lacks dominant stuff, and soft-tossing lefties have historically been Vanderbilt's Achilles Heel. Not this year, though. This year, we're being carved up by RHPs who throw 88-91 and have a lot of movement on their sinkers. So no worries.
In fact, the only Xavier pitcher with numbers that stand out is Garrett "Bloody Sock" Schilling (4-3, 1.98 ERA, 13 Saves), but I'd be pretty damned surprised if we saw him tomorrow, at least not in a traditional closer's role.