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SJU eliminated from Big East

By Joseph Staszewski

St. John’s was left without a baseball championship to show for its fantastic regular season.

The Red Storm fell just short of a Big East regular season title and then made a quick exit in the conference tournament over the weekend.

The second-seeded Johnnies fell 1-0 to No. 3 Seton Hall and Big East pitcher of the year Josh Prevost May 23 and were pounded 8-2 the next day by No. 4 Xavier, the eventual champion, in an elimination game at MCU Park in Coney Island.

“Very disappointing,” said St. John’s Coach Ed Blankmeyer when asked about the weekend. “St. John’s wins championships. That’s what I told the kids. We look for championships. We are not satisfied with a winning season. We want to win championships. We were positioned to win a championship.”

Instead, the bats went ice cold for the Red Storm (35-20) during its two tournament games. St. John scored two combined runs and managed just 11 hits. Xavier, on the other hand, was clutch all afternoon, scoring all eight of its runs with two outs.

Blankmeyer felt his team faced two of the league’s top three pitchers in Provost and Xavier’s Vinny Nittoli, who allowed one earned run in eight innings of work.

“We hit some balls pretty good,” the coach said. “We just couldn’t string anything together.”

While the season came to a disappointing end, it was a major improvement for St. John’s after a 23-25 campaign last year. The Johnnies added nine junior college players and started three freshmen. They pulled it together after a rough start in non-league play, but couldn’t finish off their great late season run.

“We had a lot of new guys,” junior right fielder Zach Lauricella said. “We came together after that rough start. We found our identity and we started winning a lot of ball games.”

Xavier (27-27) kept them from continuing the season. The Musketeers got single runs in the first and second innings and chased Red Storm starter Ryan McCormick, who allowed four runs, with one out in the third inning and two runners on.

Xavier broke the game open by scoring four runs with two outs in the frame off a usually dependable reliever, Matt Hennie. Stephen Schoettmer had an RBI single and Mitch Elliot delivered a bases-clearing double to push the Musketeers’ lead to 6-0.

“You know 3-0 is manageable,” Blankmeyer said. “You go to 6-0, this ballpark it’s hard to score runs.”

The Red Storm scored their first run of the tournament, thanks to a double from Matt Harris, to bring home Big East freshman of the year Michael Donadio. Alex Caruso crossed home plate on a throwing error in the eighth for the second St. John’s run.

Xavier, on the other hand, pounded six Red Storm pitchers for 16 hits to provide on abrupt ending to what looked to be a promising season.

“Today was a major letdown for us,” Lauricella said. “It’s very disappointing.”

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