By Zach Gewelb
The St. John’s baseball team’s winning streak now sits at six after the Johnnies’ swept Liberty in a three-game series in Queens last weekend, winning two games in walk-off fashion.
The Red Storm offense carried the team to victory in the series’ first two games and a dominant pitching performance and walk-off hit secured the sweep. The Johnnies improved to 32-11 on the season, boosting an impressive 15-3 mark at Jack Kaiser Stadium.
St. John’s scored 19 runs in the series’ first two games before Michael LoPresti, Joe LaSorsa and Turner French pitched a combined shutout in the series finale, which set the stage for Robert Boselli III to deliver the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.
LoPresti tossed 5.2 innings of shutout ball Sunday, allowing just five hits and one walk while striking out two. LaSorsa and French gave up a combined two hits in their 3.1 innings of relief to keep the game tied at 0-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
But Liberty pitchers Noah Skirrow and Zack Brockman kept the Johnnies’ surging offense at bay through the first eight innings.
Despite allowing three hits and five walks, Skirrow made it through six innings unscathed. St. John’s left the bases loaded twice against the Liberty starter, once in the second and fourth innings. Skirrow also stranded two runners on base in the sixth inning.
St. John’s squandered another opportunity in the eighth, leaving two runners on the bases.
But the story changed in the bottom of the ninth inning.
After French shut down Liberty in the top of the frame, John Valente started the Johnnies’ rally with a one-out walk, which extended his on-base streak to 58 consecutive games dating back to last season. Valente moved to third on a single from Josh Shaw, which set the stage for Boselli’s heroics.
Boselli had two hits in five at-bats in the game to pace the Red Storm offense. Luke Stampfl also had two hits, while Anthony Brocato added one.
French earned the win, his third of the year. He has yet to allow an earned run in 25 innings this season.
Sunday’s walk-off win was preceded by another nail-biting victory Saturday afternoon.
The Johnnies rallied back from a four-run deficit and won on a walk-off single from Shaw.
St. John’s had been trailing 6-2 in the fifth inning after Liberty scored one run in the first, two in the second, one in the third, one in the fourth and one in the fifth. The Flames did their damage against St. John’s starter Kevin Magee and reliever Jeff Belge.
But the Red Storm responded with two runs in the third, two in the fifth and two in the sixth. Brocato’s two-run homer — his ninth of the year — tied the game at 6-6 in the sixth.
The teams exchanged zeroes in the seventh and eighth and St. John’s reliever Gavin Hollowell shut down Liberty in the top half of the ninth, which set up Shaw’s game-winning base-knock.
The first game of the series didn’t have much drama, as the Johnnies cruised to a 12-2 victory Friday afternoon.
That win gave St. John’s its 30th of the season, which is the 13th time the team has accomplished the feat in the last 15 seasons.
Starting pitcher Sean Mooney tossed six scoreless innings, surrendering just three hits and a walk while striking out five in the winning effort.
Boselli and outfielder Mike Antico each had three RBI to lead the Johnnies’ offense, while Shaw and Stampfl each recorded two. Shaw also walked twice and scored three times.
St. John’s will look to stay hot when the team travels to New Jersey for a Big East showdown with Seton Hall in South Orange. The Pirates boast a 24-16-1 record and have defended their home field well this season, playing to a 10-4 mark at Owen T. Carroll Field.
The three-game series was set to begin Friday, with a double-header planned for Saturday.
The Red Storm will then finish their regular season with four games at home — one against Minnesota and three against Butler — before the Big East Baseball Championship begins at the end of the month.