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PISCATAWAY, N.J. Ed Blankmeyer doesnt consider himself to be much of a gambler. But with his team struggling mightily to drive in key runs, the St. Johns baseball coach knew he had to roll the dice.
Four times Blankmeyer waved runners around third, and each time in the nightcap of a doubleheader at the Class of 53 Complex the result was the same.
On three of those attempts, Red Storm runners were thrown out at home to end an inning, including Mike Rozema, who was tagged out trying to score from second on a wild pitch as the Red Storm fell, 9-7, to the Scarlet Knights last Thursday.
Capitalizing on poor pitching and shoddy fielding, Rutgers also won the opener of the twin bill, 7-6.
Were really struggling scoring runs, and Id rather take my chances making guys throw people out instead of sitting there waiting for the hits, said Blankmeyer, whose team is hitting .239 with runners in scoring position in the Big East. Its just the way I feel at this point. I have to push people and force them to do it.
St. Johns (18-17, 7-5 Big East) jumped ahead 2-0 in the third inning and tried to extend its lead to three runs when Eddie Schultz tried to score from second on Blake Hershelmans one-out single to right field.
But just as he did an inning earlier, when he fired home to nail Ray Downs trying to score on a sacrifice fly, Rutgers rightfielder Jeff Frazier threw a one-hop strike to catcher Alberto Vasquez, who applied the tag.
Red Storm starter Anthony Varvaro pitched well through three innings, but the freshman righty issued a leadoff walk to Matt Wolski in the fourth inning and Rutgers (14-14, 8-3) capitalized, scoring six runs on five hits, including back-to-back two-run extra base hits by Graig Badger and Jeff Grose on balls misjudged by Downs in right field.
After allowing a seventh earned run in the fifth inning, Varvaro (3-4) was replaced by Gilbert Fregoso, who gave up a two-run single to right field in the sixth inning as Rutgers extended its lead to 9-3.
But the Red Storm chipped away at the Scarlet Knights lead, scoring once in the seventh before exploding for three more runs in the eighth to get within 9-7. St. Johns rally, though, was hindered when Ben Bianco was tagged out at home by a great throw from Grose in left field to Vasquez.
A couple times today we had guys in scoring position and didnt get the clutch hit, said Rozema, the co-Big East Player of the Week who extended his hit streak to 17 consecutive games. Were going to have to work on getting the clutch hit and getting us extra runs when we need it, but it didnt happen today. We kind of beat ourselves today.
The Scarlet Knights pounded Red Storm starter Joe Reid to open up a 6-1 lead in the first game, but the Red Storm rallied to tie it at 6 on Derek Sullivans gutsy one-out sacrifice bunt with two strikes in the sixth inning.
The lead was short-lived though, as Steve Normanes triple in the gap in right-center field scored Wolski, who led off the inning by being hit by reliever Greg Holmes (2-3), to give the Scarlet Knights a 7-6 lead.
Notes. Those who braved the downright nasty weather (40-degree temperatures with gusty winds and periods of driving rain) to watch the Big East doubleheader proved to be resourceful, as almost all of 250 watched the game from the warmth of their cars, parked atop a hill behind the outfield wall.
The result was a mix of the bleacher creatures and a drive-in movie. Whenever Rutgers scored a run, which proved to be quite often, the fans voiced their approval by beeping their car horns.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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