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Xavier baseball team on brink of something great

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Posted at 9:06 AM, Jun 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-06 19:23:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -  The  Xavier baseball team is on the brink of something great.

The underdog Musketeers (32-29) are two wins away from the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament – the diamond equivalent of basketball's Sweet 16.

Xavier won two out of three games over the weekend – including their biggest win ever – and faces Cal-Santa Barbara (39-18-1) at 3 p.m. ET Monday in the Regional final (ESPN3).

It's a rematch from Sunday afternoon, when Xavier lost to UCSB 5-4. The Gauchos are 2-0 in the double-elimination tournament, so 2-1 Xavier has to beat them twice Monday to advance. The stakes are huge: the Regional champions move on to play a best-of-three series against second-ranked Louisville (50-12) next weekend, with a trip to the College World Series for the winner.

Xavier stayed alive in the tournament Sunday night by beating Washington 7-5 in an elimination game. The Musketeers started the tournament Saturday with arguably their biggest win ever – a 15-1 pounding of 11th-ranked Vanderbilt, the 2014 national champion and last year's runner-up, on its home field.

Xavier's task may seem daunting, but the Musketeers have been the surprise of the tournament so far, starting with their 13-run seventh inning against Vanderbilt.

They spotted Cal-Santa Barbara a 5-0 lead, then rallied within a run. Against Washington, they built a 7-0 lead, then held on. It's only Xavier's third appearance in the NCAA tournament  - the last in 2014 - and they had never won more than one game in their first trips.

The Musketeers have been winning with good hitting – 31 hits in three games. 

Third baseman Rylan Bannon and shortstop Andre Jernigan hit their second homers of the Regionals against Washington Sunday night. Bannon's grand slam was Xavier's big hit against Vanderbilt. The sophomore has five extra-base hits (two homers, three doubles) in three NCAA Tournament games.

Designated hitter David Morton is 5-for-10 with four RBI and four runs. Catcher Daniel Ritchie is 5-for-13.

Xavier's bullpen has thrown 14 total innings and allowed just three runs (1.93 ERA). Garrett Schilling has two saves.