Red Storm sink Pirates in Regional Opener, 11-3

The St. John's Red Storm baseball opened the NCAA Tournament with a bang this morning defeating the East Carolina Pirates 11-3 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The Red Storm lead wire-to-wire as they out-hit, out-pitched and out-classed the Pirates, the same team who eliminated the Storm from the NCAA baseball postseason last year.

Starter Kyle Hansen (5-5) threw 7.1 innings for the Johnnies, scattering 8 hits and giving up three runs while striking out eight to lead the way as the Johnnies enter the winners bracket of the Regional in the double elimination part of the tournament.

The Red Storm hit the diamond again tomorrow at 6 pm to face the winner of the North Carolina / Cornell game, currently underway in North Carolina.

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The runs got started in the second and third with RBI ground outs from Zack Lauricella and Jimmy Brennan that gave the Johnnies a 2-0 lead heading into the fourth. Hansen kept setting down the Pirates as the game continued and the bats got hot.

In the fifth, the Johnnies loaded the bases and were able to get hits from Matt Wessinger and Frankie Schwindel to push the lead to 5-0. Wessinger was 3-for-5 on the day with two RBI and a run scored.

Not to be outdone in the seventh Jeremy Baltz launched his ninth home run, a deep shot to left field to push the lead to 6-0. Baltz was 2-for-4 on the day with three runs scored to go with his home run.

The Pirates got a run back in the seventh and were able to chase Hansen from the mound in the eighth. Stephen Rivera came in and allowed two inherited runners to score to finish Hansen's day. Rivera settled down and finished the inning and the game, throwing 1.2 innings and striking out two to continue his dominance from the pen and lower his ERA to 1.72.

As if the game was ever in doubt the Storm put up five extra insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings to put the game away and advance to the winners bracket.

The Red Storm will play tomorrow, June 2nd, at 6 pm against the North Carolina / Cornell winner. ECU will take on the loser in an elimination game at 1 pm tomorrow. In the regional format the Johnnies will have to lose twice to be eliminated and if they win tomorrow will be playing in the regional championship game on Sunday but again, will have to lose twice.

The Johnnies have not made a Super Regional - the equivalent of the Sweet 16 - since they last made it to the College World Series in 1980 with star pitcher and New York Met Hall of Famer, John Franco.

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