College baseball: Late rally boosts St. John's over No. 8 North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — With the Red Storm trailing 4-2 heading into the seventh inning, Jesse Berardi and Michael Donadio delivered late-inning heroics as St. John's stormed back to top the Tar Heels, defeating No. 8 North Carolina on the road to remain undefeated and secure the team's best start to a season in 36 years.
With the Red Storm (8-0) trailing by two runs after six innings, Berardi launched a two-run homer to tie the contest at four in the seventh. The following inning, Donadio logged his 200th career hit in style, blasting a solo shot over the wall in right-center and giving the Johnnies a lead that they would not surrender. With a 2-for-3 effort on the day, Donadio became just the 21st player in the history of St. John's baseball to reach the 200-hit plateau.
Joe LaSorsa threw three innings of perfect relief to hold the Tar Heels at bay, striking out four and picking up the first win of his St. John's career.
Jamie Galazin and Josh Shaw also drove in runs for the Red Storm, while John Valente extended his hitting streak to 20 games dating back to last season, the longest such streak for a St. John's player since Jimmy Parque tallied a 23-game streak in 2009.
Anthony Brocato went 2-for-4 with a walk, registering his fourth multi-hit game of the season.
By handing the Tar Heels (8-1) their first loss of the year, the Red Storm improved to 8-0 for the first time since the 1981 squad went 14-0 to begin the campaign. That team was led by future MLB stars Frank Viola and John Franco.
The Tar Heels brought home a run in the bottom of the first, as Zack Gahagan hit an RBI single to left center, the first hit of the year given up by Jeff Belge. The base knock scored Brian Miller from second, who reached on a hit by pitch in the contest's first at-bat.
Shaw and Donadio led off the top of the second with back-to-back singles to right, the latter of which allowed the runners to move 90 feet following an error by the right fielder. With runners on second and third and one out, Galazin poked a single into center to score Shaw and tie the game at one.
North Carolina quickly took back the lead in the bottom of the second, as Josh Ladowski delivered his first career hit to drive home Cody Roberts from third and put the Tar Heels up 2-1 after two.
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The trend of one-run frames continued in the top of the third, as Berardi was hit by a pitch to start the inning before Brocato ripped a single into right just beyond the reach of the shortstop to give St. John's runners on second and third with one out following a Troy Dixon sac bunt. Next up was Shaw, who hit a slow roller to third that scored Berardi and tied the game at two.
The Tar Heels jumped back ahead in the home half of the frame, as Gahagan and Kyle Datres reached based on a hit by pitch and a walk, respectively, to start the inning before both came around to score and put UNC up 4-2 after three.
After surrendering a pair in his first inning of relief, Sean Mooney went on to throw three frames of scoreless baseball, giving up only two hits during that stretch.
After five consecutive half-innings with at least one run, the Red Storm and the Tar Heels went scoreless until the top of the seventh, when Berardi tied the game with one swing of the bat. Valente led off the inning by battling for an eight-pitch walk, putting a runner on first for the junior from Commack, New York. With a 2-1 count, Berardi crushed a ball to right-center, easily clearing the fence and knotting the contest at four.
After LaSorsa retired the Tar Heels in order in the bottom of the seventh, Donadio put the Red Storm on top in the following frame. Down 0-2 in the count, the senior turned on a 96 mph fastball from Austin Bergner and launched it no less than 400 feet to right center, giving the Johnnies a 5-4 lead after seven and a half.
Following LaSorsa's second straight 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth, the Johnnies threatened with two runners but failed to bring one home in the top of the ninth.
The Iona Prep product came out for the bottom of the ninth and recorded his third perfect inning in a row, securing the victory for the Johnnies.