May 24, 2014
Box: Xavier 5, Seton Hall 3
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Seton Hall arrived at MCU Park on Saturday just one win away from a trip to the BIG EAST championship game. But after a disastrous afternoon that saw The Hall post losses to both top-seeded Creighton and No. 4 seed Xavier, the Pirates instead saw their season come to an end while the upstart Musketeers survived to face Creighton for the BIG EAST crown on Sunday.
And the one most responsible for the Musketeers run to the title game? How about the unheralded Sean Campbell?
Campbell entered Saturday's game against the Pirates in the fifth inning in relief of starter Eric Stiene and was nothing short of brilliant as he held Seton Hall in check over his 4 2/3-inning stint, allowing one hit and one walk while fanning five. Just as a comparison, Campbell's numbers on the season read as follows: 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 28 innings of work with a mere 10 strikeouts.
Talk about your coming out parties.
"Sean did an unbelievable job," said Xavier head coach Scott Googins. "I told the guys in the huddle afterward, Sean grew up before our eyes. He's got a very good arm, a very good breaking pitch and a very good change. He's shown flashes at different times this season but today it was lights out."
Seton Hall (39-15) had taken a 3-0 lead after five innings after scoring a single run in the first on an RBI groundout by Sal Annunziata before plating a pair in the fifth courtesy of a two-run triple by Zack Weigel. What's more, Pirates starter Anthony Pacillo was masterful through the first five frames as he flirted with a no-hitter with only a third-inning walk to Andre Jernigan keeping him from a perfect game.
But Xavier finally managed to push across a run in the sixth when Derek Jenkins' throwing error to home on a fly to center allowed Jernigan to score from third to make it a 3-1 game. But it all started to come apart for Seton Hall in the seventh when Xavier scored four times with Jernigan getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in the first run before Steve Schoettmer's RBI single, Bo Slemons sac fly and Mitch Elliott's run-scoring single knocked in the other runs for a 5-3 Xavier lead.
"I think at that point in the game, any way you could get base runners on and scratch runs across would work," Jernigan said. "The rare bases loaded hit-by-pitch gives you a run, and a couple of hits here and there definitely help at that point with us being down."
From there, though, the story was Campbell.
"Honestly I love the pressure," Campbell said, "so in a pressure situation I just want to be there and luckily today that happened."
It was an eye-opening performance that drew rave reviews from Googins.
"That's what we needed," Googins said. "Eric Stiene gave us a good start but started scuffling a little bit and we decided to make a change and Sean came in there and he just took over. I just can't say enough good things about him. The bar has been raised now every time he goes out there."
But as euphoric as the Xavier clubhouse was, it was the complete opposite for the Pirates who came into the tournament as the best hitting team as well as the top-ranked pitching unit. But somehow it all got away from the Hall on Saturday when it all looked so promising through five innings.
"Absolutely, at that point it did look good," said Seton Hall coach Rob Sheppard. "We were one win away from going to the championship game. You go to the ball park with the intention of playing (Sunday). Unfortunately we didn't make that happen."
But it did happen for Xavier, which now stands one win away from a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers lost to Creighton, 9-2, Thursday afternoon. So can this "new" Musketeers outfit, with wins over No. 2 St. John's and No. 3 Seton Hall, pull off the hat trick with one last win over the top-seeded Bluejays?
"We're a different team now," Googins said. "We're riding a little momentum and we got some confidence so we'll be ready to go."
Jernigan, too, is confident of a better outing this time around by the Musketeers.
"Yeah I'd definitely say so," Jernigan said. "Obviously the first game didn't go our way but the past two games we've definitely built confidence both on the mound and at the plate. We're executing in situations where we need to. Confidence is a big thing but momentum is also with us."