The St. John's Red Storm baseball team showed grit, toughness and pride throughout the weekend in Stillwater, but the team came up just short of forcing an epic Monday night elimination game.
The Johnnies lost to the Arkansas Razorbacks 4-3 on Sunday evening and will head home to Queens after Arkansas' Joe Serrano knocked in the winning run in the top of the ninth inning on a fielder's choice.
After defeating the number one seed Oklahoma State earlier in the day and eliminating Oral Roberts on Saturday, the Johnnies' starting pitching was again solid as Alex Katz gave up only six hits and two runs in five innings while striking out five. The bullpen, Shawn Heide, Joe Kuzia and Thomas Hackimer, struggled but found ways to get out of jams (except for the ninth inning), giving up two runs on five hits while striking out only one batter.
Ed Blankmeyer's team trailed for most of the evening but started their usual Johnnie rally in the bottom of the sixth. Center fielder Alex Caruso walked to begin the inning, stole second and then scored after a Razorbacks overthrow to first base. Left fielder Michael Donadio got in on the fun as he singled to right field, knocking in infielder Robert Wayman (who reached on the error), making it a one score game heading into the eighth inning.
The Johnnies had all the momentum as the bottom of the order stepped up in the seventh and Robbie Knightes drove a pitch down the left field line to even the game at three a piece.
But that was all the damage that the team would do as Razorbacks pitcher James Teague forced Donadio to ground into a quick double play ending the possible completed comeback.
The Razorbacks struck quickly in the top of the ninth though as they loaded the bases and drove in a single run on a fielder's choice. Hackimer was able to get out of the inning without major damage but that's all the favorites would need as dominate reliever Zach Jackson stepped on the bump in the bottom of the frame.
Jackson retired all three batters in order, striking out the side and sending the Johnnies back north with a 2-2 record in the regional.
Despite the loss, the team showed they could compete with the best of them. Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts were all strong competitors, despite the difference in seeding, that could have come out of any other regional bracket.
Next season, the Johnnies will have an experienced unit that will be hungry to return to the NCAA Tournament and next time they hope to advance to the Super Regionals and maybe even the coveted College World Series.