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Notre Dame sweeps St. John’s in doubleheader

By Dylan Butler

The usually analytical Ed Blankmeyer was blunt and to the point Sunday at The Ballpark at St. John’s. After all, what was left to say after the St. John’s baseball team got hammered by No. 24 Notre Dame in a Big East doubleheader sweep.

“They just beat us. Nothing we can say. We just got flat out beat,” Blankmeyer said. “It’s just one of those days. You don’t want to have too many of them, believe me. It’s not good.”

After routing the Red Storm, 11-3, in the opener, Notre Dame pounded the Johnnies, 18-3, in the nightcap.

St. John’s, which won its first 10 at home — including a sweep of conference foe Pittsburgh — has dropped three of its last four Big East games. A bad sign considering the Red Storm’s next seven conference games (a three-game series at Georgetown and a pair of doubleheaders at Rutgers and Villanova) are on the road, where St. John’s (14-15, 4-3) is 2-10.

“We’re still in the thick of things. It’s early so we can make some adjustments,” Blankmeyer said. “We’re not in bad shape, standing-wise, but yet we’ve played seven games at home and we’re 4-3. We have to go on the road and do the job.”

Notre Dame (20-6, 7-1), which came into Jamaica well-rested after its doubleheader Friday at Boston College was canceled due to inclement weather, pounced on Game 1 starter Jim Wladyka (1-3) for five earned runs in the opening two innings, highlighted by second-inning home runs by Cody Rizzo and Steve Sollmann.

Greg Holmes wasn’t much better, plunking Rizzo and Greg Lopez before giving up a three-run home run to Matt Edwards in Notre Dame’s six-run third that put the Fighting Irish ahead, 11-0.

In Game 2, St. John’s actually jumped ahead 3-1 in the third on a Jesus Bravo two-run double through the legs of ND first baseman Joe Thaman that rolled all the way to the wall.

But the Fighting Irish tattooed freshman starter Craig Hansen (1-1) for five runs in the fourth, including a two-run single to right by Thaman, and another seven in a nine-run fifth inning which saw 16 Notre Dame players bat.

Gilbert Fregoso relieved Hansen, but gave up five straight hits, including a home run by Sollmann and a two-run triple to right-center field by Brennan Grogan, to put Notre Dame ahead, 15-3.

After Shane Koshon allowed a run, Keith Hansen, Craig’s older brother, took the hill to open the eighth inning, and Edwards promptly crushed his first pitch into the mesh behind the centerfield wall to give Notre Dame a 17-3 lead.

“It was just our day today. It was just one of those days that everything we hit seemed to find a hole,” said Notre Dame coach Paul Manieri. “Realistically, Eddie’s staff was more taxed than ours was because he had played two full ball games on Friday, and we had everybody rested because we didn’t play in Boston.”

Connecticut 5, St. John’s 3. Led by starter Tim Norton, who allowed five hits in six shutout innings, the Huskies jumped ahead 4-0 before holding on to beat the Red Storm in the nightcap of a Big East doubleheader Friday at The Ballpark at St. John’s.

Pinch-hitter Blake Hershelman belted a three-run home run over the wall in left field — his team-leading fourth long ball of the year — to cut St. John’s deficit to 4-3 in the seventh inning. But UConn reliever Mike James held off a pair of Red Storm rallies in the eighth and ninth innings to secure the win for the Huskies (14-8, 6-1).

Norton picked up the win, improving to 2-0 and Mike James notched his seventh save for the Huskies, while SJU starter Anthony Varvano fell to 2-3.

St. John’s 4, Connecticut 2. Junior Derek Sullivan (2-for-3, two RBIs, two runs scored) crushed a two-out, two-run home run over the leftfield wall in the bottom of the seventh to lift the Red Storm to a 4-2 win in the opener.

Starter Joe Reid was solid, striking out nine and not allowing a run through six innings. But after giving up a single and a walk in the top of the seventh, Reid was replaced by Craig Hansen, who gave up a two-run single to Mike McDonough to put UConn ahead, 2-1, before Sullivan's heroics in the bottom of the inning.

Hansen picked up his first collegiate win while Reid went 6.1 innings, giving up two runs on five hits. Nick Tucci fell to 2-3, giving up three earned runs on five hits in 6.2 innings as UConn saw its 11-game winning streak snapped.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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