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St. John’s Baseball officially eliminated from tournament contention

The Johnnies won their first conference series of the year on the same day they got eliminated from postseason activities.

Baseball - dugout Wendell Cruz

The Johnnies, headed to Indianapolis for their final road trip of the season, had to change their plans before leaving Queens. Forecasted Sunday storms in the Midwest prompted the Big East to modify the series to have all four games in two days with a doubleheader on Friday now scheduled to accompany Saturday’s planned doubleheader. The change of plans wasn’t the worst thing in the world for the Johnnies they still left Indy with their first conference series win of the season.

While the Johnnies’ 3-1 weekend pushed them past the Villanova Wildcats and Butler Bulldogs in conference standings, they are mathematically eliminated from the Big East tournament.

The Xavier Musketeers, having gone 3-1 against Georgetown, sitting at 13-9 in conference play, meaning the worst the team can finish is .500 while the Johnnies can sweep Villanova next week and end at 13-14, a half-game out of qualifying for the tournament.

Although all tournament tickets have been punched, this weekend’s affairs will be interesting to watch as all four teams in the tournament have a shot at the #1 seed.

The series went as follows:

Game 1: St. John’s 9, Butler 0 | W: Mondak (4-3) L: Schultz (2-5)

Game 1, shortened to seven innings because of Sunday’s storms, didn’t hinder the Johnny offense one bit. The team collected 13 hits, most in a shortened game this season, and scored in four of seven frames.

Despite the condensed game, the Johnnies circled through the order four times and then some, with all the hits coming from the top-6 in the order and C Mitchell Henshaw in the 9-spot. 2B Carson Bartels batting in the leadoff spot and INF Marty Higgins in the 6th spot led the team with 3 hits each. However, Bartels accompanied his production with a run and four RBIs while Higgins scored two runs and collected no RBIs. Henshaw and CF Ryan Hogan each had a pair of hits, a pair of runs, and an RBI in the game.

On the mound for the Johnnies was Nick Mondak, the team’s traditional game one starter. For the second week in a row, Mondak pitched six strong innings for the Johnnies and, now part of a doubleheader, saved strain on the pen. Mondak’s six shutout innings featured only five baserunners (3 hits, a walk, and an HBP) with 10 strikeouts.

Josh Lajoie finished the game with an inning of hitless, two-walk ball for the Johnnies to take game one. The combined shutout was the first pitched by St. John’s since May 23, 2019, against the Xavier Musketeers in the Big East Tournament.

Game 2: St. John’s 4, Butler 0 | W: Mosseau (2-1) L: Myers (3-5)

Friday’s 9-inning affair featured fewer runs and fewer hits for the Johnnies despite being two innings longer than the day game but yielded the same shutout result for St. John’s.

During the second of two Friday games, the bottom half of the order stepped up for St. John’s. All four runs and eight of ten hits for the Johnnies came from the 5-9 hitters with 1B Justin Folz going 2-5 batting fourth.

RF Vinny Bianchi willed the team to victory with an RBI in the 2nd and 4th innings and a run scored in the 8th as part of his 3-3 day at the plate. Bianchi, batting in the 8th spot, had help on either side of him in the order thanks to two hits and an RBI from both C Colin Wetterau batting 7th and SS Chris Conniff batting 9th.

Ian Murphy got his first start in over a month for the Johnnies and pitched a scoreless 4.1 innings but was pulled after some trouble in the 5th inning. Murphy gave up two hits and four walks total and struck out 7.

Geoff Mosseau, the game’s winner, pitched only an inning but gave up no runs on a hit and two walks. Nick Guzzi followed with 1.2 innings giving up only two walks and was succeeded by Joe Joe Rodriguez who gave up a walk and struck out two in an inning of his own. Ethan Routzahn closed the game in a non-save situation with a perfect inning.

Game 3: St. John’s 1, Butler 4 | W: Eaton (2-2) L: Semon (1-1)

The Bulldogs posted their first runs of the series in the bottom of the first inning, marking the first time in 16 innings the Johnnies gave up a run.

The St. John’s offense slowed down for the 7-inning opener on Saturday in Indianapolis. The team mustered only two hits all game, one from 2B Carson Bartels and the other from DH David Glancy on an RBI double scoring the only non-hit baserunner, 1B David Williams, who reached by getting hit by a pitch. The run cut the Butler lead down to two, but the game never felt like it was within reach after the first inning.

In his game three start, Matt Semon gave up all four Butler runs in his four innings pitched. Semon was victimized by his three hits, three walks, and a hit batter. Ben Adams and Tim Cunningham entered the game for the Johnnies and pitched 1.2 and 0.1 innings respectively to get the Johnnies onto game four.

Game 4: St. John’s 9, Butler 4 | W: Cunningham (4-3) L: MacCauley (3-3)

The Johnnies ended the weekend double-double header with a win to secure their first conference series win all year.

Like Saturday’s earlier game, the Johnnies fell behind early and gave up four runs total, but this time the bats came alive and made up for earlier shortcomings. The nine runs came on 11 hits, eight walks, and an HBP.

LF Brian Morrell led the charge for the Johnnies with three hits and 1B Justin Folz and SS Chris Conniff both tallied two each. In total, seven Johnnies recorded at least one hit, and all nine reached at least once. The 7-9 hitters consisting of Wetterau, Bianchi, and Conniff each tallied a run and two RBIs except for Conniff who scored twice.

Tyler Roche got the nod for the Johnnies in their final away game of the regular season. Roche gave up two runs on two hits and three walks in 4.2 innings pitched. Roche was immediately relieved by Brandyn Cruz who walked the two batters he faced before he was pulled having recorded no outs. Tim Cunningham pitched two innings of scoreless, two-hit ball to record the win for the Johnnies and was succeeded by Joe Joe Rodriguez and his 1.1 innings giving up a run on a hit and HBP. For the second time in two days, Ethan Routzahn entered the game in a late, non-save situation and closed the game, this time giving up a run in the 9th but not squandering the lead built up by the Johnnies.

As the Johnnies reflect on the season now eliminated from conference contention, you have to wonder how the Johnnies will be able to better capitalize on easy-to-win games next year. The Johnnies went 1-3 against the last place Georgetown Hoyas, handing them 3 of their 5 conference wins all season in one weekend. If the team wants to return to the ranks of Big East baseball powerhouses, they’ll have to learn to limit runs scored by top teams, having given up 70 runs in 8 games against Creighton and Seton Hall (#1 and #2 seeds respectively).

The Johnnies will look to carry their momentum into next weekend and to the offseason as they host the Villanova Wildcats for four games in Queens looking to build on a 38-15 record all-time against the ‘Cats.