With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth and his team trailing 4-2, Rutgers center fielder Johnny Defendis blasted Craig Hansen's first pitch changeup deep to right field.There was no doubt the ball was leaving the Ballpark at St. John's, it was just a matter of where it would fall in relation to the right field foul pole. Hansen, one of the premier closers in the country, peeked over his left shoulder and when he knew the ball would hook foul he turned towards catcher Joe Burke and asked for a new baseball.Five pitches later, Defendis lined out to left field and Hansen and the Red Storm dodged a bullet, winning the nightcap of a doubleheader, 4-2 Sunday. The Scarlet Knights won the opener, 10-8."When he hit it, I kind of knew it was foul," Hansen said. "The previous at-bat, I threw him a first-pitch changeup and he pulled it real bad. I knew he was a fastball hitter."Hansen entered the game in the sixth inning, after starter Jim Wladyka - who improved to 5-1 - walked Jeff Grose and Colin Gaynor. The first batter he faced was Defendis and the former Xaverian star lined into a double play.After Cory Rodriguez walked, Dave Williams hit an RBI-single to right and it was clear Hansen wasn't going to overpower Rutgers like he has every other team he has faced."They hit Craig very hard and you know what it was, the second time around good hitters make adjustments," St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer said. "He's going to get hit, he's human, and they hit some good pitches too."In his second at-bat against Hansen, Defendis, a former Xaverian star, blasted a double to right field and Rodriguez followed by driving in Grose in the eighth inning.Jon Gossard led off the ninth reaching second courtesy of a dropped fly ball by right fielder Will Vogl. After getting pinch hitter Steve Hook to fly out to center and striking out Todd Frazier, Hansen hit Grose and Gaynor singled to left to load the bases for Defendis, who gave everyone in the stands a scare."I saw it hook but I just hoped it hooked after the fact," Blankmeyer said. "Thank goodness it hooked."Upset over being pinch hit for in the seventh inning of the opener, St. John's third baseman Jim Martin went 3-for-4 with 3 runs scored in the nightcap. Vogl's solo homer off the top of the left field wall to lead off the seventh accounted for the other St. John's run."I guess I just tried to use it for me because I don't usually get pinch hit for," said Martin, in a thick Massachusetts accent. "As the lead off guy I just try and do my job for the guys behind me."Anthony Varvaro, who has arguably been the best pitcher in the Big East this year, was uncharacteristically wild in the opener. He walked seven - including two with the bases loaded - in just three innings and left with Rutgers leading 3-1. He threw 92 pitches, including a 46-pitch third inning.Rob Delaney, usually the No. 3 starter, came in but he also struggled for a second consecutive Big East outing. He gave up seven earned runs on seven hits, including four in the fourth inning that saw the Scarlet Knights turn a 6-3 deficit into a 7-6 lead. He picked up the loss and fell to 4-2."He had a bad day, a bad inning where he lost total control and I had to pull him out of the game," Blankmeyer said of Varvaro. "It just looked like he was struggling and I decided to make a move at that time."Rutgers starter Aaron Kalb didn't fare much better, getting chased after a 5-run third inning, highlighted by Joe Burke's 3-run double to left field.Defendis led off the sixth inning with a home run to left-center field to break a 7-all tie and Rutgers added a pair of runs in the top of the seventh off freshmen relievers George Brown and Dan Stanley.The Red Storm scored one in the bottom of the seventh on a pinch hit single to right field by Anthony Smith and had runners at second and third with one out. But P.J. Antoniato and Greg Thomson each popped out to third base to end the game.St. John's 11, Rutgers 1. Sophomore Anthony Sullivan threw seven shutout innings and St. John's scored five times in the first inning to take the series finale Monday afternoon. The Red Storm, which have won 20 of their last 24 games, host Notre Dame in a critical three-game set this weekend. Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2005 Community News Group
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