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St. John's expects to stay hot

St. John's Danny Bethea (26) rounds the bases

St. John's Danny Bethea (26) rounds the bases after his his home run in the ninth inning against North Carolina. (June 2, 2012) Credit: AP

TUCSON, Ariz. -- St. John's has braved the Florida heat and conquered the North Carolina humidity in its run through the postseason.

Now, to get to the College World Series, the Red Storm just has to win two games on the surface of the sun.

At least it feels that way.

The temperature is expected to top 100 degrees when third-seeded St. John's opens its series against top-seeded Arizona in the Tucson Super Regional Friday. The 3 p.m. EDT start time -- noon in Tucson --won't help the East Coast visitors, and the promise of national television exposure on ESPN2 seems like little consolation for dealing with the Sonoran Desert sun.

The Red Storm players got their first exposure to the heat during Thursday's practice at Hi Corbett Field and said they've seen -- and felt -- worse. "As soon as you walk out in the Florida heat, it punches you in the face," St. John's outfielder Jeremy Baltz said. "It's so humid and it's tough to play. You sweat as soon as you walk outside."

Conquering the desert is a bit simpler, he said. "We're going to stay hydrated. We're going to stay cool," he said. "No excuses -- we're going to be ready to play."

In many ways, Tucson is a perfect backdrop for the best-of-three series. There aren't two hotter teams in college baseball.

Arizona (41-17) swept through its regional last weekend, outscoring its opponents 47-10 in three games. The Wildcats hit .471 with 17 extra-base hits. Johnny Field finished with eight hits and 10 RBIs in 15 at-bats and was named the regional's most outstanding player.

St. John's (40-21) went 3-0 and upset host North Carolina twice in two days to win last weekend's Chapel Hill Regional and advance to the Super Regionals for the first time. Saturday night's victory was sealed when Danny Bethea ripped a walk-off three-run homer in the ninth inning.

For the second time in as many weeks, St. John's will start righthander Kyle Hansen (5-5) in the opening game. The Wildcats will counter with ace Kurt Heyer (12-2).

"We don't feel like there's much pressure on us. Probably no one except us expected us to be there," St. John's pitcher Sean Hagan said. "To advance any further than this would be completely unexpected, so we're just going to go in there and stay loose, keep this train rolling and play good baseball."

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