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The Butler Did It: Big East dropped the baseball

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Wrong.

OK, so there must have been a more poignant turnaround, a better feel-good story. Some other team must have been picked even lower only to prove everyone wrong and win the Big East, right?

Wrong again.

Pittsburgh’s Joe Jordano won the award at a banquet the night before the tournament started in Bridgewater, N.J. The Panthers were picked sixth — ahead of St. John’s — and finished third — behind St. John’s.

Oh, and by the way, St. John’s closed out the season taking two-of-three from Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh, including a regular-season-ending 17-4 romp several hours before the coaches’ ballots were due.

But it was the Pittsburgh coach who was named Big East Coach of the Year?

Huh?

I’ve known Blankmeyer for the better part of eight years, and he’s the last one to care about that award. He’s won it before — in 1996, his first season — but he was happier to win the Big East tournament in 1997. He cares more about the results on the field and the kids in his program.

But his players care and simply added that slight to the rather large chip on their shoulders as they prepared to play, as luck would have it, Pittsburgh in the first game of the Big East tournament at Commerce Bank Ballpark last Thursday.

Pittsburgh nearly had a clean sweep of the postseason awards, bringing home the hardware for Player of the Year, Co-Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the aforementioned Coach of the Year.

“Coach did a great job and they had a great year as well, but I thought we went down there and took two-out-of-three from them,” said Red Storm catcher Joe Burke. “I guess we came out and wanted to beat them to show he should have been Coach of the Year.”

They did just that. Anthony Varvaro was spectacular, no doubt proving he was better than his All-Big East second team selection and outpitching Nick Evangelista, who shared Pitcher of the Year honors with Chris Lambert, as the Red Storm beat Pittsburgh for the third time in five days, winning 4-2.

Varvaro, Burke (second team) and shortstop Mike Rozema (third team) were the only St. John’s players among the 40 picked on the postseason teams. But that’s a whole other column.

“Coaches in this league are good and I appreciate the guys feeling that way, but my pleasure is seeing the guys win and get to the tournament,” Blankmeyer said. “That’s my reward. The most important thing is to see their face after we won the ballgame at Pitt and to see guys like Rozema and (Anthony) DeRosa and (Joe) Reid have a ball.”

On Friday the Red Storm’s run in the Big East tournament came to an end following a pair of losses to Notre Dame and Boston College. The following day I ran into Blankmeyer at St. John’s, where he was checking out the second round of the CHSAA playoffs.

There are no days off for Blankmeyer.

Ed Blankmeyer is not the Big East Coach of the Year, but he could not care less. On Monday he learned his team earned its first-ever at-large bid into the NCAA tournament — and first appearance since 1997 — and will play Long Beach State at Stanford University Thursday in the first round.

As for Pittsburgh coach Joe Jordano, he’s home with his trophy, his season is done.

Who’s better off?

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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