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Postseason Hopes Fade for Sliding St. John’s Baseball Squad

The big, long baseball recap. Johnnies record their first conference wins after early failures.

Baseball with seams

The Johnnies returned to the diamond following a home loss to Hofstra with a three-game weekend series hosted by the #25 UConn Huskies before returning to Long Island for a matchup at Hofstra and a home series against the Creighton Blue Jays.

The seven-game stretch ended with the Johnnies dropping all six Big East matches, with the only win coming against Hofstra by a pair of runs. The games went as follows:

Game 1: St. John’s 7 | UConn 12

W: Peterson (6-0) L: Rodriguez (1-3)

Connecticut began the series by retiring the first three Johnnies to step up to the dish before unleashing six runs on St. John’s in the bottom half of the inning.

The game continued on with both sides trading blows in the 3rd inning and UConn extending their lead to 9-1 after 6 innings. The Johnnies attempted a valiant comeback effort with sis runs in the final three innings, including a grand slam from SS Kevin Michaels in the 8th, but ultimately fell short as the Huskies tacked on another three runs over the same time.

The offensive effort of seven runs on 11 hits was assembled by the top four batters for St. John’s who reached base nine times and tallied 6 RBIs with Michaels’ reaching base on three hits and a hit-by-pitch.

Joe Joe Rodriguez started the game on the mound for St. John’s and went on to record 4.2 innings of work. Following the six-run 1st inning, Rodriguez settled down and allowed four baserunners and one run from the 2nd-4th innings.

After Rodriguez conceded another pair of runs in the 5th, Ben Adams entered the game in relief and pitched to the game’s end. In 3.1 innings, Adams allowed three hits and had a pair of errors, and hit batsmen resulting in three runs crossing home with just one being earned.

A 5-run loss for the Johnnies is one of the largest margins of defeat to the hands of the Huskies, but there was more in store as the weekend continued.

Game 2: St. John’s 0 | UConn 13

W: Gallagher (5-2) L: Backman (1-1)

The Huskies blanked the Johnnies defensively and put up a baker's dozen offensively. UConn scored in six of eight innings at-bat and recorded all of their runs without a ball leaving the yard.

The scoring started in the first inning with an inside-the-park home run from Husky DH Erik Stock, who went 4-4 with a walk in the second game of the series. Eight Huskies piled on to the host’s 17-hit total for the game and seven scored a run.

UConn’s offensive performance dismantled the St. John’s pitching with no issue. Brandon Backman’s 4.0 inning start ended with five runs on the board for the Huskies and Joe Mascio’s 2.0 inning relief appearance was no different as the score was 10-0 UConn after six innings. Tim Cunningham pitched the 7th inning for St. John’s and gave up another three runs to end the scoring on the day. Jude Zern pitched a perfect 8th inning, preserving whatever dignity was left in the final scoreline.

The St. John’s bats were blanked for the 2nd time this season (February 28 @ Oregon) and the team’s four hits are the 2nd fewest all season (again, February 28 @ Oregon). OF David Glancy recorded three singles and OF Jayson Kramer recorded the other hit and both recorded a walk, representing all six instances of a Johnny reaching base in the game, with neither advancing past first base.

The 13-run defeat is the worst for either side in St. John’s-UConn series history and is only UConn’s 3rd largest win of the season.

Game 3: St. John’s 0 | UConn 10

W: Stefanoni (4-1) L: Fauci (2-2)

In the series finale between the Johnnies and the Huskies, the St. John’s bats stayed asleep for the 2nd straight game as the team set a season-low for hits (2) and extended their scoreless streak to 18 innings.

OF David Glancy and 2B Chris Conniff each collected one of the two St. John’s hits in game three while OF Jackson Tucker, SS Kevin Michaels, and replacement OF Jermaine White all reached on a walk. Unlike the previous outing, the Johnnies got Glancy to 3rd and Tucker Jackson to 2nd base by way of an error and a couple of groundouts in separate innings.

On the mound, Sonny Fauci started the game for the Johnnies and, like earlier matchups, fell victim to early runs from the Huskies. Fauci completed a pair of innings and conceded three hits, three walks, and a hit batsman to yield six earned runs. Fauci was succeeded by Dylan Johnson who took the game beyond the halfway point for St. John’s with three innings of work. Johnson gave up another three earned runs on four walks and four hits.

The game finished with Vinny Bianchi putting in two innings of two-walk, one-run ball preceding Oliver McCarthy and Chuck Sanzio combining for two strikeouts in the game’s final inning.

In total, the St. John’s pitching staff limited the Huskies to seven hits, but because of their nine walks and a single hit batter, found themselves down big.

St. John’s 6 | Hofstra 4

W: Bianchi (1-3) L: Kaenzig (0-3)

The Johnnies sought to pick up momentum as they traveled to Hempstead for a game against the Hofstra Lions. While they did come away with a win, raising their non-conference win percentage to 40%, the Lions rallied late to make the match a lot closer.

After falling behind 2-0 in the 2nd, the Johnnies strung hits together in the middle innings with five scoring plays between the 4th and 8th innings. OF Jayson Kramer opened scoring with an RBI in the 4th inning, clearing the way for 1B Nick Cirelli to hit in OF David Glancy in both the 5th and 7th innings. 2B Max Shabestari collected two more runs for the Johnnies in the 7th and drew a walk in the 8th inning to score the final run of the day for St. John’s.

The team’s offensive effort produced 21 total baserunners with Glancy, 3B Tate Ballestero, Cirelli, and Kramer all tallying a pair of hits.

Joe Mascio started the game for St. John’s on the mound and went 2.2 innings holding complete responsibility for the pair of runs scored early by Hofstra. Mascio was relieved by the game’s winning pitcher, Vinny Bianchi, who pitched 3.1 innings allowing only two walks. Oliver McCarthy and Tim Cunningham followed with an inning each where both conceded a walk in their time.

Chuck Sanzio finished the game for St. John’s with a complete 9th inning. Sanzio conceded a two-run home run to trim the Johnnies lead in half with one out in the 9th before retiring the next two batters on five pitches.

Game 1: St. John’s 3 | Creighton 5

W: Tebrake (5-1) L: Rodriguez (1-3) S: Steier (6)

Thursday’s series opener against the Creighton Blue Jays was a sign of what’s to come in a close game. The game featured a quiet lead-up to the 9th inning in which five of the game's eight runs were scored.

The Blue Jays broke a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning with an RBI double making the score 2-1 heading into the final frame. Frustratingly, all three runs scored by the Blue Jays in the 9th were as a direct result of carelessness by the Johnnies where a hit batter, dropped fly ball, and another hit batter (all with bases loaded) sealed the game for the Blue Jays.

SS Kevin Michaels responded in the bottom half of the frame with a two-run home run with no outs, cutting the deficit in half. Michaels’ effort was insufficient in getting St. John’s in the winning column, but it did score 3B Tate Ballestero who also did his part offensively. The duo in the 3-4 spots of the batting order recorded three of six St. John’s hits, two runs, and all three RBIs in the game.

Despite being issued a loss for the game, starting pitcher Joe Joe Rodriguez delivered a quality start for the Johnnies with seven innings allowing a pair of runs on five hits. Rodriguez struck out eight and set the game up perfectly for Dylan Johnson to enter in a perfect inning of relief.

Ben Adams started the 9th inning on the mound and loaded the bases before hitting a batter. Tim Cunningham replaced Adams and facilitated a dropped fly ball and another hit batter, scoring Creighton’s winning runs. Cunningham’s outing was perfect after the hit batter and both he and Ben Adams only got charged for one run between the two.

Game 2: St. John’s 3 | Creighton 5

W: Bergstrom (3-1) L: Bianchi (1-4) S: Steier (7)

After taking Friday off, a Saturday doubleheader spelled the end of the series between the Johnnies and the Blue Jays with either side trying to break away from the other after a close series opener.

The Johnnies took an early lead with a couple of runs in the 1st inning thanks to 1B Nick Cirelli hitting a ground-rule double with bases loaded. The Johnnies then scored in the 3rd and 5th innings to bring their run total to four, tying the Blue Jays after five frames. The Blue Jays put another run on the board in the 6th and shut out St. John’s the rest of the way to claim the win.

St. John’s outhit Creighton 8-4 with each of the top seven hitters recording a hit. OF David Glancy recorded two hits to lead the team but trailed DH/C Austin Machado who reached base three times, including a pair of walks.

Brandon Backman picked up the start for St. John’s and went all of 3.2 innings with three runs charged to his name and leaving with the score knotted at three. Backman would be charged with another run on a wild pitch from Vinny Bianchi later in the 4th inning. Bianchi’s succession of Backman lasted four innings and resulted in the concession of just one run but he was ultimately given the loss because the run conceded to put the Blue Jays over the top. Joe Mascio and Tim Cunningham finished the first of two games on Saturday with 1.1 innings and 1 hit conceded between the duo.

Game 3: St. John’s 2 | Creighton 4

W: Lommel (1-3) L: Sanzio (0-1) S: Lidd (1)

For the 2nd time on Saturday, the Johnnies found themselves victimized by runs late after holding a lead.

SS Kevin Michaels got St. John’s on the board first with a bases-loaded RBI double that scored two runs and upped his RBI total for the series to four. Michaels’ double was the lone scoring play of the day, and with his two hits, Kevin Michaels did what he could to put St. John’s over the top, along with OF Carlos Hidalgo and DH Paul Orbon who tallied three and two hits respectively. The trio accounted for all seven St. John’s hits while two more Johnnies reached on a walk.

Starter Dylan Johnson did what he could with the two runs of support he received early as he pitched 4.2 solid innings and allowed just one run on two hits and recorded seven strikeouts. Johnson split the game nearly 50/50 on the mound with Chuck Sanzio who pitched the final 4.1 innings. Sanzio gave up four hits and struck out five but went down as the losing pitcher in the game because of his three runs conceded, including solo home runs on back-to-back pitches in the 6th inning.

The Johnnies ultimately got swept in three games where they were outscored by only five runs and had a lead twice, outcomes that are far less than ideal.

St. John’s 15 | Fairleigh Dickinson 2

W: Mascio (3-0) L: Simon (3-2)

The Johnnies got back in the win column with a Wednesday win against the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The Johnnies’ offensive outburst struck in the 5th inning when the team tallied eight of their 15 runs and followed that up with five more in the 6th inning. CF Jackson Tucker collected the team’s first RBI in the 3rd inning and the first RBI of the 5th inning to kick things off. RF Carlos Hidalgo led St. John’s in hits despite not entering the game until the 5th inning. Hidalgo’s day consisted of a perfect day at the plate with three hits, three RBIs, and a pair of runs scored.

As a team, the Johnnies collected more runs (15) than hits (14) in the game lending credibility to what the team is capable of. Nine of 13 Johnnies with a plate appearance recorded a hit and the team tallied four walks and two hit by pitches to aid the effort.

Joe Mascio anchored the bottom half of the first five innings for St. John’s with four hits allowed and five strikeouts during his outing. Vinny Bianchi succeeded Mascio with a one-walk scoreless inning to take the game past the 6th inning.

Jude Zern conceded the Johnnies’ shutout in the 7th inning with a pair of hits and earned runs charged to his name in a full inning of work. Ben Adams, Jason Diaz, and Tim Cunningham recorded the final six outs allowing a hit and a walk between the trio.

Game 1: St. John’s 8 | Butler 6

W: Rodriguez (2-4) L: Drees (3-1) S: Sanzio (6)

The Johnnies kicked off their home series against the Butler Bulldogs on Friday afternoon with both sides trading runs in the first two innings before St. John’s stepped out to a four-run lead after the 4th.

Friday’s eight-run, 11-hit effort was a team affair as eight Johnnies reached base 19 times. SS Kevin Michaels, C Colin Wetterau, and 2B Chris Conniff all had multiple hits, CF Jackson Tucker led the team with a pair of runs scored, and OF Carlos Hidalgo drove in a pair at the dish.

Joe Joe Rodriguez started on the mound for St. John’s and pitched 5.2 innings of ball allowing just one unearned run. Rodriguez sat down four Bulldogs on strikes, allowed four hits, and saw only two runners advance past 2nd base. Dylan Johnson followed Rodriguez for an inning and a third, watching a run cross the plate but not being charged for it. Johnson struck out two batters and walked one in a hitless effort.

Vinny Bianchi and Tim Cunningham were the next two up for St. John’s and went 1.0 and .2 innings allowing one and three runs respectfully. Chuck Sanzio preserved the win for St. John’s with a strikeout to end the game and cool off the Bulldogs that scored four runs in five outs.

Game 2: St. John’s 8 | Butler 7 (10 innings)

W: Cunningham (1-1) L: Galdoni (2-1)

With an opportunity to clinch their 3rd series win all season, and 1st series in conference play, the Johnnies came out to fight the Bulldogs. A scoreless first four innings left both sides eying a win on Saturday, and after trading big innings, the teams were tied at seven after nine innings before late heroics walked it off for St. John’s.

St. John’s tallied only three baserunners before breaking onto the scoreboard in the 5th inning with a run and then piling on five more in the 7th. As a unit, the Johnnies matched their game one production with 11 hits, led this time by DH Paul Orbon who tallied three, a walk, and a pair of runs in four at-bats.

Despite the volume of Orbon’s production, his efforts paled in comparison to the clutch show put on in the bottom of the 9th and 10th innings by his teammates. After the Bulldogs took a one-run lead in the top of the 9th inning, OF David Glancy stepped to the plate with two outs and hit a solo home run over the left-field wall to send the game to extras.

Glancy’s effort was followed up an inning later by a two-out single by Nick Cirelli to get the Johnnies on base in the 10th. Orbon drew a walk in the next plate appearance, pushing Cirelli to second, and C Colin Wetterau hit the game-winner on a single after P Vinny Bianchi entered the game to pinch run for Cirelli.

Opposite the fireworks on offense, Brandon Backman started the game for St. John’s and went 4.2 innings on the day. His work was suboptimal having given up three walks, three hits, and a pair of earned runs. Dylan Johnson followed with 1.1 innings of work, watching four runs cross the plate despite being charged with none thanks to an error in right-field.

The Johnnies settled down defensively behind Oliver McCarthy who delivered three outs while issuing just one walk. Geoff Mosseau followed McCarthy recording an out and a hit before being pulled for Tim Cunningham.

Cunningham finished the game for St. John’s with 2.2 innings striking out five, walking none, and giving up only a go-ahead run in the 9th inning.

Game 3: St. John’s 12 | Butler 12

W: L: S:

28 runs and 30 hits between the Bulldogs and the Johnnies weren’t enough to separate the two sides after the game was deemed a tie four hours in.

The Johnnies faced a 7-0 deficit before stepping to the dish after an action-packed top of the first inning. The team didn’t score in response but instead composed a series of rallies to score nine runs in four innings, culminating in a five-run 5th. The Bulldogs clawed back and took a 12-9 lead with four in the 8th but St. John’s was clutch again and tied the game with three in the bottom of the 9th.

The St. John’s offensive effort saw six batters get all 14 hits, all six with at least two, led by OF David Glancy and 2B Chris Conniff with three each. Another eight walks (including three from a hitless Paul Orbon) and a hit by pitch brought the Johnnies to 23 base runners in the series finale.

Streaky scoring kept the Johnnies in the game and the crowd on their toes with their dozen runs coming on 10 different plays.

Four pitchers saw time for St. John’s, three of which pitched more than two innings. Joe Mascio got his 2nd start of the week for St. John’s and saw the first seven runs cross the plate for Butler. Mascio was a victim of circumstance as he was only charged with two runs but had to work around a throwing error.

Vinny Bianchi tamed the Bulldogs in the next 3.1 innings as he allowed just one run and four hits. Ben Adams and Chuck Sanzio ended the game with a pair of earned runs each in 2.2 and 2.0 innings respectively.

As a result of the tie, no Johnny was awarded a win or save or was penalized with a loss.

St. John’s 8 | Iona 3

W: Mosseau (1-1) L: O’Sullivan (0-2)

St John’s wrapped up an 8-game homestand with a win against the Iona Gaels. Runs in each of the first three innings by the visitors were neutralized by six runs in the 2nd inning, five of which came with two outs.

All nine Johnnies with a plate appearance reached base in a productive day up and down the order for the squad. 1B Nick Cirelli knocked in three RBIs with his 4th home run of the season while OF David Clancy and 3B Tate Ballestero each recorded a pair of hits, tied for the team lead of 53 thus far into the year.

Following the 2nd inning, Wednesday’s win came as a result of masterful pitching from the St. John’s bullpen. Ben Adams went two full innings in his start and conceded a pair of runs, followed by Jude Zern who gave up a run in his inning at work.

Six pitchers followed Zern, each with an inning to show for in the game, and each blanked the Gaels on the scoreboard. Further attesting to their dominance, following a leadoff single by the Gaels in the 4th, the Johnnies recorded the next 15 outs without allowing a hit and putting one on with a walk.

The 16-24-1 Johnnies will be on a mission to pick up steam in conference play with a weekend trio of games at Villanova. The Johnnies historically have an easy time defeating the Wildcats with a win percentage of around 70% but the sides swapped roles in their most recent series last year when the Wildcats took two of three in Queens.

The Wildcats are 15-20-1 this year with both them and the Johnnies taking two of three games in series against the Butler Bulldogs and the Wildcats taking one of three against UConn while the Johnnies were swept by the Huskies.

The Johnnies will return to Queens next week and face the Marist University squad for a mid-week matchup on Wednesday where the Red Foxes are 4-2 against common opponents that the Johnnies have a 2-5 record against.

If the Johnnies look to capitalize on their future opponents, last week's Big East Player of the Week, OF David Glancy, will set the tone for the team’s offensive production as they approach the penultimate road trip of their season.