By Zach Gewelb
The St. John’s baseball team dropped its third consecutive game, falling to Fairfield 2-1 Tuesday afternoon at Jack Kaiser Stadium in Queens.
The Johnnies’ pitching staff, led by starting pitcher Jeff Belge, performed well enough to win, but the team’s bats couldn’t break through as St. John’s fell to 9-7 on the season.
Belge tossed four innings, surrendering four walks, three hits and two runs while striking out three. The Red Storm bullpen was stellar in relief of Belge, allowing just two base runners — one hit and one hit batsman — in five innings.
But the offense could only put together five hits and three walks.
Josh Shaw went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and an RBI to lead the Red Storm. The performance marks the fifth time Shaw has recorded at least two hits in a game this season. He also drew a walk and advanced a runner with a sacrifice bunt.
Fairfield (5-11) took an early lead in the top of the second inning, using small ball to put a run on the board. The Stags rallied with a walk, a single, a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI groundout to take an early 1-0 lead.
Fairfield added to its lead in the fourth with another small ball rally against Belge — a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly put the Stags’ second and final run of the game on the board.
St. John’s answered back in the bottom of the inning,
John Valente led off the inning with a single — which extended his hitting streak to 19 games dating back to last season — and then stole second. He looked like he would be stranded at second following back-to-back strikeouts, but Shaw came up big in the clutch, driving Valente in with an RBI single to cut the Johnnies’ deficit to 2-1.
Junior lefty Turner French entered the game in the fifth and recorded four terrific innings in relief of Belge, facing the minimum 12 batters. He allowed just one runner to reach base on a hit-by-pitch in the sixth. French tossed 49 pitches, 32 of which were strikes.
The Red Storm rallied in the bottom of the seventh, putting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with two outs, but were unable to push another run across the plate in the inning and went down 1-2-3 in the eighth.
Joe LaSorsa pitched a scoreless ninth inning for St. John’s, maintaining his perfect ERA on the season through seven appearances.
Luke Stampfl led off the bottom half of the ninth with a single to left, sparking another rally. Shaw added a single two batters later, but the Stags converted a double play to secure the 2-1 victory over the Johnnies.
The loss comes after St. John’s dropped two of three games in a series at home against visiting UConn. The Johnnies won the first game of the series 14-4, but dropped the final two contests 1-0, and 3-1, respectively.
The Red Storm have struggled at home early this spring, playing to a 1-3 record at Jack Kaiser Stadium. But the Johnnies have seen success playing away from home, compiling a 5-4 record as visitors and a 3-0 mark in games played at neutral sites.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe