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Red Storm can’t sweep, still in midst of big start

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By doing so, the Red Storm would have extended one of the country's longest winning streaks to 14 games and swept a Big East opponent for a second straight weekend.Instead, the Johnnies were left to lament early missed opportunities, some shoddy fielding and a bad relief outing by Justin Gutsie in a 6-2 loss to Seton Hall at Jack Kaiser Stadium."We won (13) in a row, but we were a little flat today," St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer said. "We just didn't have the energy."Of course, all is not lost for the Red Storm, who are ranked No. 25 in the country. One win in their next four games will still solidify the quickest 20-win season in program history. And there's nothing wrong with a record of 19-5 and 5-1 in the conference."We're off to a good start," said rightfielder Chris Anninos, who was 3-for-4 with a run scored. "I don't see us losing any of the series if we play our game."Seton Hall junior Greg Miller was wild early, but St. John's couldn't capitalize, stranding eight runners in the first four innings. Twice Paul Karmas came up with runners in scoring position, but the freshman slugger from St. Francis Prep struck out in the first inning and grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fourth."I thought that was the key to the game," Blankmeyer said. "Karmas gets a good swing on the ball, but two feet to the right or left then we score one or two. After that, I just don't think we recovered well enough offensively."Karmas, a Douglaston resident who is batting cleanup for the Red Storm, was 1-for-5 on the day and Miller settled down, allowing two runs - one earned - on six hits, striking out five and walking five in six innings to improve to 2-1.Despite Karmas' rare struggles at the plate, the Red Storm led 2-1 going into the sixth inning thanks to a solid outing from starter Miguel Valcarcel, who allowed one earned run on four hits in 4.1 innings. The sophomore from Puerto Rico replaced junior Jared Yecker, who was shelved after having three starts shortened because of a blister on his throwing hand.Gutsie came on in relief in the fifth inning, but struggled. He gave up a two-run single to Matt Skopak in the sixth inning and a two-run home run to Chris Affinito in the seventh that gave Seton Hall (13-12, 5-4) a commanding 5-2 lead."I think Miguel did a great job, exactly what we wanted him to do," Blankmeyer said. "The problem is that Gutsie didn't do the job. That happens in baseball."After a non-conference game scheduled for Wednesday against New York Tech, the Red Storm will head to Louisville for a weekend set starting Friday night.Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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