June 3, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Danny Bethea launched a three-run walk-off home run against All-American closer Michael Morin as St. John's erased a 4-2 ninth inning deficit and defeated No. 4 North Carolina, 5-4, to silence a crowd of 3,710 and advance to the Chapel Hill Regional Finals. Bethea finished 1-for-3 with four RBI to lead St. John's (39-21), which snapped the Tar Heels' 16-game winning streak in regional games played at home. Jeremy Baltz was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Sean O'Hare was also 3-for-4 for the Red Storm. Kevin Kilpatrick (3-2) earned the win in relief, while Sean Hagan earned a no-decision after allowing four runs in 8.1 innings of work. Shell McCain was 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI to lead North Carolina (45-15), while Morin (6-4), who is now 18-of-20 in save opportunities, took the loss after allowing three runs in 0.1 innings of work. Kent Emmanuel allowed two runs, one earned, in 8.0 innings for the Tar Heels to take a no-decision.
North Carolina threatened first, loading the bases with two outs in the second inning before Hagan got an inning-ending strikeout on a full count pitch to keep the Tar Heels off the board.
St. John's then took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after Baltz was plunked to set the table. O'Hare followed with a single up the middle before a Zach Lauricella sacrifice bunt set up runners on second and third with one out. Bethea followed with an RBI groundout and the Red Storm took a 1-0 advantage.
The Tar Heels answered immediately, however, tying the game with a run in the third. Michael Russell and Colin Moran led off with back-to-back singles before Hagan induced a pair of fly outs, but Coyle followed with a two-out RBI single into left center and UNC tied the game at 1-1.
The Red Storm answered with a two-out rally to grab a run in the bottom of the third and retake the lead. Emanuel retired the first two batters before Matt Wessinger hustled to turn a blooper into shallow right center field into a double. Frank Schwindel then reached on an error to set up runners on the corners before Baltz lined a two-out RBI single into left center to give the Red Storm a 2-1 lead.
Hagan, meanwhile, worked 1-2-3 frames in the fourth and the fifth to eventually retire eight-straight before allowing a one-out double in the sixth. McCain promptly followed with a two-run home run to left field and UNC took the lead 3-2.
Hagan bounced back after the home run with 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth and retired nine-straight batters before a one-out pinch hit single by Grayson Atwood set up a run in the ninth. A Parks Jordan RBI double into the right field corner gave UNC a 4-2 lead and St. John's went to the bullpen. James Lomangino entered and issued a walk before inducing an infield pop up and the Red Storm went to the bullpen again as Kevin Kilpatrick induced an inning-ending groundout to send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
A leadoff double by Baltz set the stage for the three-run walk-off heroics in the bottom of the ninth. O'Hare followed with a single to set up runners on the corners with no outs before Morin got a strikeout. Bethea then stepped up and launched an 0-1 pitch to left field for a three-run walk-off home run to give St. John's the 5-4 triumph.
St. John's will face either North Carolina or East Carolina in the Regional Finals at 6 p.m. on June 3. The Red Storm will face the winner of the UNC vs. ECU elimination game, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. on June 3.