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Heading into its final Big East series of the season, the St. Johns baseball team controlled its own destiny. If the Red Storm could take two of three from Rutgers, they could clinch one of four berths to this weekends Big East Tournament.
Instead, St. Johns finds itself on the outside looking in after getting swept by the Scarlet Knights. After starting the conference slate 12-5, the Red Storm won just one of their final eight games against the upper echelon of the league and failed to qualify for the Big East Tournament for a second consecutive season.
St. Johns finished with a 31-22 mark, 13-13 in the conference.
When you get that close, there are no moral victories, you have to get there, said St. Johns coach Ed Blankmeyer. If we had some timely hitting or had a closer, we would have won some of the close games down the stretch.
In the opener of the three-game series at the Class of 53 Complex in Piscataway, N.J. Saturday, Rutgers (40-13, 18-8) scored two runs in the first inning on back-to-back singles by Billy McCarthy and Mike Popowski. From there Geno Orsogna settled down and pitched six scoreless innings, but, as was the case so often during the season, the Red Storm failed to execute the big hit when it needed it as St. Johns fell, 2-1.
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the sixth inning, back-to-back errors by the Scarlet Knights put runners on the corners with one out for the Red Storm, but Eric Potts lined out to first and Jason Kane grounded out to second to end the threat.
In the seventh inning, Flushing native J.P. Cirigliano led off the inning with a single and advanced to second when Michael Rhoads was hit by a pitch. But Brian Hedgecock flied out to right and Rutgers ace Brian Browlie struck out Mike Rozema to end the game.
In the nightcap, the Red Storm got plenty of offense, scoring seven runs in the first three innings. Usually that is more than enough run support for ace Marc Goldberg, but the transfer from South Florida got rocked for nine runs six in the third inning in 2.2 innings pitched as St. Johns fell 18-9.
Goldbergs been consistent all year but he had the kind of day where he couldnt find the strike zone and they got some key hits, Blankmeyer said.
After losing both games in Saturdays doubleheader, the Red Storm no longer controlled their fate. They needed to beat the Scarlet Knights and then hope West Virginia beat Seton Hall or Pittsburgh upset Virginia Tech. Neither scenario would come to fruition.
The Hokies defeated the Panthers and the Pirates used an 11-run fourth inning to defeat the Mountaineers.
In what was the Red Storms last game of the season, the lack of clutch hitting and a quality bullpen again did in St. Johns. The Red Storm put runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings, but could only muster two runs on six hits as St. Johns trailed 4-2 after four innings.
The Red Storm took a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth inning on Kanes RBI-single to right. Rutgers answered back with the game-tying run in the eighth on Tim Sweeneys double to right-center field.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, reliever Greg Holmes, who replaced Joe Reid, gave up a leadoff double to Matt Wolski. After an intentional walk to Val Majewski, McCarty ended the game, sending Holmes first pitch to the center field wall to end the Red Storms season.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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