Pitching to blame as SJU drops rubber match

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Ed Blankmeyer’s reoccurring nightmare, the one where the St. John’s baseball team falls behind early, then rallies only to lose late, haunted the Red Storm coach again Monday at The Ballpark at St. John’s.

This time it happened against West Virginia, which took two out of three games from St. John’s, as the Mountaineers jumped ahead 4-0 and fell behind 5-4 before eventually defeating the Red Storm, 9-7.

“It’s frustrating for everybody,” Blankmeyer said. “It’s kind of been our M.O. all season. We don’t jump out and we play our way back in. It comes back to bite us sometimes.”

St. John’s, which dropped to 23-20, 9-8 in the Big East, is one game out of the fourth and final tournament spot. The Red Storm will head to Virginia Tech, which at 10-7 is tied with Pittsburgh for fourth place, for a critical three-game set this weekend.

Once again the main culprit in Blankmeyer’s nightmare has been the Red Storm’s shoddy starting pitching. This time it was Jim Wladyka who struggled, as West Virginia (29-12, 12-3) scored two runs in the first inning and two more in the third, highlighted by Eric Grimm’s solo homer in left-center field.

“I don’t think our starting pitching has been as consistent this year as it has in the past,” Blankmeyer said. “Out of 17 [Big East] games, I can count our quality starts on one hand. Most of the time by the fourth or fifth inning we’re in trouble and have to make a pitching change.”

A pitching change is something foreign to West Virginia coach Greg Van Zant, so it was no surprise that even after the Red Storm tacked on five runs in the fifth inning, capped by Anthony DeRosa’s three-run home run over the left field wall to put St. John’s ahead 5-4, starter Zac Cline returned to the hill in the sixth inning.

DeRosa, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, was a triple short of batting for the cycle.

West Virginia tied the game at 5-5 on Travis D’Amico’s double to left and took the lead for good on Jake Serfass’ opposite field two-run home run off the foul pole in right field off reliever Geno Orsogna. Orsogna was tabbed with the loss, falling to 1-2 on the season.

The Mountaineers went up 9-6 before St. John’s scored once in the bottom of the ninth and had the tying run at the plate with two out, but Cline (7-3) forced DeRosa into a weak pop out on his 155th pitch to earn the win in the southpaw’s second consecutive complete game.

St. John’s 7, West Virginia 6. Greg Thomson’s two-run triple highlighted a three-run seventh inning, as the Red Storm rallied from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the Mountaineers in the nightcap of a doubleheader Sunday afternoon.

Tom Klemm improved to 4-2 for the Red Storm, giving up one earned run on three hits in 3.2 innings of relief, while Jason DiAngelo dropped to 6-3 for West Virginia.

West Virginia 4, St. John’s 0. Joe Reid pitched brilliantly, scattering a pair of hits through eight scoreless innings, but West Virginia scored four runs off reliever Mike Tamulionis (2-2) in the ninth inning in an extra-inning thriller in the opening game of the doubleheader.

Jesus Bravo went 2-for-3 for the Red Storm, while D’Amico went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in the ninth inning and Shawn Miller (5-0) went the distance, striking out 11 while scattering five to earn the shutout for the Mountaineers.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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