Surviving in the Wild West
(3) Oral Roberts v (4) St. John's
Ryan McCormick, the BIG EAST pitcher of the year, showed why he's one of the best in the country when it comes to pitching in high-pressure situations. The junior righty threw 5 innings and only allotted 7 bases to the high-powered Oral Roberts offense, allowing just three hits to the Golden Eagles while walking 4. McCormick was on, picking his spots with supreme control and inducing weak grounders and flyouts to give his defense a good workout. The two runs that crossed the plate during McCormick's outing were both unearned. The victory gave St. John's their 40th win on the year as well as getting McCormick to 11 wins.
The St. John's offense came out strong, getting to Golden Eagle pitcher Bryce Howe early and often. Caruso worked a walk to begin the game and eventually made his way home after Lauricella smoked a liner to left field for a double. The third inning started a lot like the first; Caruso gets hit by pitch, gets bunted over by Wayman (who was safe at first after a blown call by the umpire) then both runners moved over after a sac bunt. Lauricella stepped to the dish and watched a beautiful curveball by Howe float through the middle of the strike zone for strike three. 2 outs, runners in scoring position, and Matt Harris hits a routine groundball to second - except as the ball hit the dirt it bounced about 15 feet in the air over the 2nd baseman's head. Both Wayman and Caruso score, 3-0 St. John's. Oral Roberts should've better known better to even trot out an offense as McCormick shut down the side.
Then, the fourth inning was upon us. The singles machine began whirring and blinking at a high rate for the Johnnies as the first two men got on with base hits. One out, Alex Caruso at the dish, and he delivered... sort of. Caruso laid down an absolutely beautiful bunt to the right side to try to squeeze home Tony Brocato from third, and as Oral Roberts fielded the bunt they threw home where Brocato slid safely to make it 4-0 St. John's. What transpired after that was absolutely magical. Spinning and whirring the singles machine was, steam pouring from its valves, the Johnnies plated 6 runs in the inning and gained a 9-0 advantage. Game over.
Seriously, that's all they needed. Oral Roberts got some garbage runs in the bottom of the fourth and sixth, but to come back from 9 down against St. John's is a lot like trying to take a chemistry lab final with a blindfold on and your hands tied behind your back. The Johnnies survive and advance to the next game while the Golden Eagles, as good as their season was and as good as they looked on paper, make the sad bus trip back to Tulsa.
(1) Oklahoma State v (2) Arkansas
As I've recently mentioned in these musings about college baseball, the only way one can beat Arkansas is to silence their bats, and Michael Freeman - the man, the freak, the legend - did just that for 6 innings. Over the course of those 6 innings, Arkansas only managed to do minor damage in the third inning where he allowed two runs on three hits. Cruising for the next four innings, it appeared as if the Shooty Guys with Big Hats were going to roll on and win this to advance to the championship series.
Then, the 8th inning happened. Arkansas had seen Freeman three times and were beginning to capitalize on mistakes, loading the bases and eventually scoring on a wild pitch to make it 4-3 Okie state. Freeman was pulled for Reed who proceeded to throw wide on a pickoff attempt to first that scored another. A couple singles later and it's 7-4 Arkansas. One big inning, especially late, got Arkansas into the championship series and sunk Oklahoma State into the losers bracket to face our pride and joy in the St. John's Red Storm.
(1) Oklahoma State v (4) St. John's - 1pm ET - ESPN3
St. John's and Okie State have exhausted their aces in their Saturday games, which makes their rematch for Sunday all the more exciting. Can St. John's stay hot and blow past the regional host, or will Okie State recover from blowing a game late and pull out a victory? I think I speak for all of us when I say the first scenario would be much, much better.
JOHNNIES WIN! JOHNNIES WIN!!!
St. John's will face the 2nd seeded Arkansas Razorbacks tonite at 7pm ET. Catch it on ESPN3! In order to move on to the Super Regional, St. John's will need to beat Arkansas twice. BIG EAST represent!!