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Poor pitching keeps St. John’s out of first place

By Patrick McCormack

St. John’s was two outs away from winning Game 2 of its series with Creighton and ending the weekend in first place in the Big East.

All of that promise evaporated quickly when Jake Peter drilled a three-run homer in the ninth inning off Red Storm closer Joe Kuzia to lead the Blue Jays to a 13-11 victory in completion of a suspended game Sunday at Jack Kaiser Stadium.

The Johnnies’ pitching struggles continued in their 15-5 defeat in the rubber game of the series played immediately after Game 2.

“We didn’t pitch well, bottom line,” Red Storm Coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “We had a big lead in the second game, a four-run lead, and we gave it right back to them. I think that lasted into Game 2 of the day. Our pitching just didn’t pitch well.”

The lefties in the Blue Jays’ lineup hurt St. John’s. Peter did it in Game 2 of the series and centerfielder Mike Gerber dominated the Red Storm in the rubber game. He went 3 for 5 with two home runs and drove in six runs, including an RBI double in the Blue Jays’ seven-run eighth inning.

“The other thing about that [Creighton] program over there we don’t have a remedy for right now is they have a lot of left-handed batters,” Blankmeyer said. “It puts a lot of pressure on right-handed pitching, and if you don’t have good left-handers to mix them up a little, it’s tough.”

St. John’s, which left 14 men on base, had opportunities but couldn’t cash in on them. With Creighton up 8-5 in the bottom of the seventh and runners on first and third, Alex Caurso popped up to end the inning.

Red Storm left fielder Zach Lauricella, who was 7-for-10 with four RBIs in the final two games of the set, sees the rough end of the series as a learning experience for the team.

“We came out a little flat and they jumped on us right away,” Lauricella said. “We lost a heart breaker in that second game. So they used that momentum against us, and they jumped on us quick, but it is a learning experience for us. We are going to learn from it and take it into next weekend.”

St. John’s sits at second place in the Big East, one game out of first. It meets the third-place Seton Hall Pirates next weekend in South Orange. Blankmeyer sees the final series of the season as a challenge for his squad.

“I think Seton Hall is better than these guys,” Blankmeyer said. “I think Seton Hall pitches better than these guys. At their ballpark they are very tough to score on because the park plays very big and they are athletic out there. They have a pretty good balance in the lineup, they are swinging the bats pretty good, so we have our hands full.”

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