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Xavier's bubble bursts in NCAA tournament

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Jun 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-06 20:28:32-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The bubble burst for the underdog Xavier baseball team in the NCAA Tournament Monday.

The batters couldn't hit when they had runners on base and the pitchers couldn't avoid the home-run ball when Cal Santa-Barbara did.

A nine-run fourth inning – highlighted by a pair of three-run homers – led the second-seeded Gauchos to the Regional championship with a 14-5 victory over the fourth-seeded Musketeers.

Xavier (32-30) had been getting key hits throughout the tournament, but they left 12 runners on base Monday.

Xavier's Nate Soria, who had three hits, pounded a two-run homer in the seventh inning, and the Musketeers put runners on the corners. But unfortunately, they had already used their magical 13-run seventh inning in Saturday's opener against Vanderbilt.

XU pitchers gave up more runs than they had allowed in the first three games combined (11).

The Musketeers jumped out to 2-0 lead in the first on RBI singles by Soria and Chris Givin. But Xavier left two runners on in the first and went down with the bases loaded in second.

XU starter Greg Jacknewitz retired nine straight through the first three innings, then the wheels came off in the fourth. Austin Bush, who hit a walk-off homer to beat Washington,  homered off Jacknewitz, and Clay Fisher homered off reliever Damien Richard.

Joe Gallenbeck's sacrifice fly plated a Xavier run  in the fourth, but the Musketeers  stranded two runners in that inning, two more in the seventh and one in the eighth.

It was Xavier's second loss to the Gauchos (40-18-1) in the Regional to go with a 5-4 defeat Sunday afternoon.

Still, Xavier had a good run in only its third trip to the NCAA Tournament, finishing 2-2. The Musketeers crushed the top seed, 11th-ranked Vanderbilt, 15-1 on its home field and bested Washington 7-5.

Xavier put the most players on the all-Regional team with five: Givin, Dan Rizzie, Rylan Bannon, Matt Fallon and David Morton.

It was a successful season for the Musketeers, who started 3-12 but pulled it together to win the Big East regular-season and tournament titles and tie the school record with 32 wins.

Cal-Santa Barbara, 3-0 in the Regional, goes on to the Super Regionals – baseball's equivalent of the Sweet 16 – and plays second-ranked Louisville in a best-of-three series. The eight Super Regional winners go to the College World Series.