Storm beats Heels, moves to Super Regionals
GalleriesSt. Johns 9, North Carolina 5
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Kevin Kilpatrick and James Lomangino worked out of jams in consecutive innings and first baseman Frank Schwindel went 5-for-5 as Big East champion St. John's earned a 9-5 victory over North Carolina and won the Chapel Hill Regional title at Boshamer Stadium Sunday.
"Sometimes it's destiny," Storm coach Ed Blankmeyer said. "I thought we played our 'A' game. We were playing our best baseball coming into this. Our starting pitching was solid all three games and we were aggressive offensively. I'm proud of these guys. Towards the end of the season, I felt we were a good club and had a chance to do something special."
The Red Storm advanced to the Chapel Hill Regional championship round with strong starting pitching and closed out its first regional title since 1980 because of its bullpen.
It was the second time in as many days that the Red Storm defeated the top-seeded Tar Heels, completing a three-game sweep of the regional.
UNC (46-16) had won 16 straight NCAA Tournament games on its home field before Danny Bethea stunned the Tar Heels with a walk-off homer Saturday. Twenty-four hours later, the Red Storm kept the momentum going by taking care of business early.
It also got a break when Sean O'Hare's grounder in the third took a bad hop over second baseman Tommy Coyle's head, turning a potential double play into a two-run single that tied the score at 3-3. Moments later, tournament MVP Jeremy Baltz scored on a perfectly executed double steal, and the Red Storm never trailed again.
"The ball bounced our way today," Baltz said. "It was just a great day."
Not that St. John's didn't have to endure a few nervous moments.
One of them came in the sixth when starting pitcher Matt Carasiti gave back the run his team had scored in the top of the inning. But with the tying run on base, Kilpatrick came in and -- with the help of a heads-up play by Schwindel -- worked out of further trouble.
An inning later, with St. John's leading 7-4, Lomangino bailed Kilpatrick out of a bases-loaded, one-out mess by inducing UNC's Cody Stubbs to pop up and striking out Shell McCain on three pitches.
The Red Storm added some insurance with a pair of unearned runs in the ninth before Stephen Rivera came on to record the final three outs of his team's seventh straight postseason win.
"This is unbelievable," senior shortstop Matt Wessinger said. "We knew we had a good team, but to come here and win a regional, this is probably the biggest moment of my career."