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A Big East Baseball Update - 4/17

Everything you thought you knew was wrong.

Steven Branscombe

We’ve just finished up week two of BIG EAST Beisbol play and uh, well, ok it certainly has been something. Let’s take each team’s record, non-conference only, and put them in order, best record to worst record with their respective RPI’s, then you tell me who you think would be on top:

St. John’s - 22-3 (34)

Butler - 20-8 (122)

Georgetown - 20-12 (196)

Xavier - 17-13 (119)

Seton Hall - 14-12 (97)

Creighton - 9-15 (226)

Villanova - 4-17 (269)

RPI helps out with this thought experiment as it adds a bit of context to each team’s record, with Georgetown accumulating wins against poor teams, sending their RPI plummeting, while Seton Hall has played stiffer competition and lost to ‘good’ opponents.

Taking the two into account, you’d think the conference ought to shake out to something like this after the first two weeks:

  1. St. John’s
  2. Seton Hall
  3. Butler
  4. Xavier
  5. Georgetown
  6. Creighton
  7. Villanova

If you have a rational mind, looking at these sorts of things in a vacuum, you’re probably nodding your head and agreeing that, fuck yes, this is how it should look.

Well, you’re an idiot. Baseball is complex in its nuances, idiot.

Here’s the actual standings:

  1. Creighton - 5-1 (14-16)
  2. St. John’s - 4-2 (26-5)
  3. Villanova - 2-1 (6-18)
  4. Xavier - 3-3 (20-16)
  5. Butler - 2-4 (22-12)
  6. Seton Hall - 2-4 (16-16)
  7. Georgetown - 0-3 (20-15)

So how on earth did we get here? What past wrongs have we committed to the Baseball Gods to allow this sort of thing to occur? Are you a Mets fan? I bet you’re a Mets fan. That’s why. It’s your god damn fault.


Top Storylines

Bluejays Figuring Out How To Baseball

Creighton had a lot of spots to fill this offseason. By a lot I mean pretty much every position in the field other than “pitcher,” so their 1-11 start was just a means of teaching these kids how baseball works at this level. They splashed in the water, coming close to drowning, but learned how to kick their legs and stay afloat.

With guys like Tommy Luevano, Michael Emodi, Clark Brinkman, and Parker Upton coming to form and showing their offensive prowess, the Jays finally have an offense to be proud of, utilizing bunts, base hits, and dingers in a balanced effort to get guys on, over, and home to score.

I talked with a St. John’s manager before the Jays faced the Johnnies in a 3 game set to start off BIG EAST play, and he said, “I just don’t want to see Creighton with a lead late so we have to face (David) Gerber.”

The back-end of the bullpen was a bit shaky to start, with aforementioned lockdown closer David Gerber taking 4 losses early on, yet with he and Ethan DeCaster figuring out how to work multiple innings to shore things up (DeCaster threw 69 pitches in a 14 inning affair against St. John’s) the two have been decent in conference play.

With weekend starters in Rollie Lacy, Jeff Albrecht, and Keith Rogalla tossing some of their best outings of their careers recently, it appears that the team with so many unknown pieces has figured shit out in the most important stretch of the season.

Johnnies Are Good! Perhaps Too Good.

Despite dropping two games to the resurgent Bluejays, St. John’s is still the cream of the crop in the BIG EAST. Right now they’re the central cog in boosting the conference’s overall RPI, but if they lose too many games in conference, that can radically change things.

They’re the glimmering beam of hope that the conference could get two teams into the tournament if they fail to win the championship, yet in order for this pipe dream to come to fruition, they’ll need to run the table in conference. No hiccups, no bad games, no bullpen meltdowns, just pure perfection. If they falter, then Val Ackerman will get her wish, and the BIG EAST will remain a one-bid league.

Luckily for them, they’ve got the bats to keep them in every ballgame, especially since nearly every member of the conference has a fucking awful bullpen (see: Butler giving up 9 runs in the 11th inning).

Jesse Berardi and Jamie Galazin are both hitting over .400. The Johnnies have 5 others hitting over .300. That’s just absolutely insane, and there’s no sign of any of them slowing down, especially when they get to face the likes of Georgetown and Villanova.

Villanova Won The Best Game Ever

This is a really odd spot for Villanova. They’ve got, arguably, the best pitcher in conference in Hunter Schryver, who threw 6 innings of 4-hit shutout ball against the power-laden Musketeers in Xavier.

It’s too bad they have no offense to supplement his pitching abilities.

Speaking of having no offense, the Wildcats showed their ineptitude in full bloom in the opening game of BIG EAST play against Xavier. For 8 innings, Musketeer ace Lowther was throwing a perfect game.

Bottom of the ninth, Lowther is three outs away from perfection and has a 2-0 cushion.

He throws four straight balls and is pulled, with the no-no in tact, at 119 pitches. Probably the right move by head coach Scott Googins if he’d like to see Lowther live a healthy life with a right arm that’s semi-functional.

Enter: Sophomore righty Taylor Williams for the Musketeers.

He walked the first guy he faced, no-no still viable, setting up the triple play or something.

Villanova’s Timmy Lilly lays down a sac-bunt, moving the runners to 2nd & 3rd. No-hitter still fucking there.

Nova’s David Gulati strikes out looking. One out away from history.

Williams then walks the next batter, setting up force outs on every base.

Tensions high. Strike one thrown by Williams. The nearly 200 people in attendance starting to feel a sense of unease. The last thing Villanova needs is to get no hit and shutout.

On the next pitch, Donovan May hit an infield single to the shortstop. Everyone moves up a base.

No-hitter over.

2-1, Musketeers.

All Taylor Williams wants now is to get the fuck out of this nightmare and crawl into a dank, dark hole and cover himself in bedsheets, for letting this game slip in favor of the sad and horrendous Wildcats would be something he’d never live down.

Four pitches later, he gave up a single to Todd Czinge.

Game over. 3-2 Wildcats.

To think that Xavier was 3 outs away from perfection, an out away from a no-hitter, only to get walked off by a cellar dweller has to be devastating.

The Musketeers Will Be Great Because They Haven’t Lost More Than Half Of Their Games Already

Around these parts the Xavier Musketeers are typically utilized as my own personal punching bag, but when they put up 15 runs against perennial power Vanderbilt in the Knoxville regional last year, and after they beat the senior-laden and favored Bluejays in the conference championship, I became a reformed man and learned to properly eat crow when I was proven wrong over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

So, unlike other years, it’s time to butter up the Xavier baseball team. They’re the best baseball team I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a team better than this one.

Remember when they swept Ohio State? Holy shit that was awesome. My hands are still clapping about that one!

Watching them beat Seton Hall on national television brought a tear to my eye. I love to see them win, but when it’s in high definition? Holy fucking shit, just sheer beauty.

I love Xavier baseball so much and they’re clearly the baseball juggernaut of the BIG EAST. Zac Lowther is one of the best hurlers to ever touch the cherry red seams of a pearly white baseball.

Joe Gellenbeck? More like Joe “I’m Gellin” Gellenbeck! Always so calm, cool, really good at sports, just a fucking great guy, right?

Don’t even get me started about Rylan Bannon. That kid is the next George Brett. Soft hands, great bat, plus he’s got this killer sense about him when he’s locked in. There isn’t a tougher out in baseball. Kid just has the heart for the game. His teammates believe in him, he believes in himself, and the almighty and brilliant chess master that is Scott Googins believes in him too.

Chris Givin? More like Chris Takingmyheartaway. Seriously. Kid is just a phenom at short, especially considering the gigantic shoes he had to fill at short after the great and grand Andre Jernigan skipped town and joined the professional ranks. He’s going to be a force to reckoned with!

Plus that beautiful ballpark is still beautiful and not an unfair home field advantage! Very great place to see a ballgame! Believe me!

The Butler Baseball Way

Butler had a spectacular start to the conference slate, upending the Pirates of Seton Hall and securing their first series win. It was a surprising start considering their ineptitude in seasons past, so perhaps their new old guy coach is finally figuring out a way to get these boys into shape.

The Bulldogs then had a tough task at hand with St. John’s over the past weekend. In the first and final game of the series, Butler managed to take the Johnnies into extra innings in Indy, a sign that they’ve got the fight and will-power to take the heartiest of opponents deep into games.

Unfortunately, once they got the Johnnies right where they wanted them, they blew it. They just fucking blew it.

In the first game, notable rubber armed man Jeff Schank pitched 6 wonderful innings, allowing the all-powerful evil empire to tack on just two runs on seven hits. Even more remarkable was the Butler defense committing zero errors, a feat that was so rare last year that it became a parade-worthy moment when they played a completely clean game.

Butler’s offense was manhandled by lefty Sean Mooney, which comes as no surprise since he’s one of the better hurlers in conference, but the Bulldogs struck when the night felt right in the ninth, scoring two to tie the game up and send it to extras.

Enter: Chris Myjack, Butler’s designated closer, to shut the Johnnies down in the top half of the inning.

Myjack threw 22 pitches, faced seven batters, and gave up 4 runs on 3 hits and two walks.

The Butler Baseball Way.

In game two, Butler led 3-1 until the 8th inning where they proceeded to give up 4 runs. They’d go on to lose 5-3.

The Butler Baseball Way.

In game three, holy fuck hold on to your god damn hat. Butler and St. John’s were knotted at 3 a piece going into extra innings. Remember Chris Myjack? He was deployed in the 10th inning, took care of business in a non-save situation by the definition of the word, but in a situation that would’ve garnered him a win had the inept Bulldog offense managed to score a run in the bottom half.

They didn’t.

Myjack came out for the top of the 11th. Still 3-3. Here’s what happened:

  • Knightes single, 0 outs
  • Sac bunt, Knightes to 2nd, 1 out
  • 4-pitch walk to Galazin, 1 out
  • Donadio groundout to 1st, Galazin and Knightes move up 90 feet, 2 outs
  • Berardi intentionally walked, bases loaded, 2 outs
  • Shaw reaches on FC, throwing error by 3rd baseman Connor Dall, everyone is safe, Knightes scores, 4-3 Johnnies, bases loaded, 2 outs
  • Gingras doubles to right field, clears the bases, 7-3 Johnnies, 2 outs
  • Gingras advances to 3rd on a wild pitch
  • Myjack is mercifully pulled after throwing 47 pitches

St. John’s would tack on 5 more runs in the inning, all with two outs, with wild pitches and dongs galore. A huge, gigantic ‘L’ for the Bulldogs.

The Butler Baseball Way.

The Schizophrenic Pirates

Like every year, this year was supposed to be Seton Hall’s. With noted slugger and most beloved ball player in Mikael-Ali MOGUES on his way to graduation at this season’s conclusion, a title fight was supposed to be in the cards. A showdown between he and Sean Mooney from St. John’s was supposed to keep BIG EAST fans rapt in attention with every pitch.

Now, Seton Hall is staring down a darkened hallway, constantly flipping a switch to a burnt out bulb, hoping for a light to come on soon. They’re clicking a mechanical pencil that ran out of lead weeks ago, praying that they’ll be able to write this season into the annals of Pirate lore.

They’ve dropped back-to-back series to start conference play, the first against the aforementioned Bulldogs of Butler, and the next to the Musketeers of Xavier - in which the first game, a loss, was broadcast on national television.

Zach Prendergast and Zach Schellenger can only do so much on Saturdays. Alescio, Caputo, and Poduslenko - household names in conference - need to find a way to get on base and get home consistently as they did in the early goings of the season, or else they’ll sit at home and watch 4 other shmucks play ball in Omaha.

This ballclub is laden with talent, and to only have 2 wins after the first two weeks of conference play is maddening. There’s a lot of time left, but with the promise they showed early on in the year to the flaccid disappointment they’ve laid bare to us, the viewers, it’s only right to be aghast.

John Fanta is eating a hotdog right now with a tear-soaked bun. I don’t want that. You sure as fuck don’t want that.

Hoya Backend Bullpen Suxa

Back in March this Georgetown ballclub faced off against Gardner-Webb in a 10 inning affair down in North Carolina. Georgetown led 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth, scoring the potential winning run in the top of the 8th inning.

It looked like a Georgetown win was about to be sealed up. Hoya closer Jimmy Swad came out and blew the save, then gave up the walk-off hit in the 10th.

The Hoyas have an 18-4 record when leading after 8 innings.

This past Saturday they led 9-3 after seven innings over the Creighton Bluejays. Surely a 6 run lead with six outs to go is enough for any bullpen, regardless of how high the tire fire’s flames are, right? Right?

Please.

No.

Don’t do this.

They blew it, didn’t they?

Creighton scored two in the top of the eighth.

They scored six more in the top of the ninth to win the game, 11-9.

Georgetown’s bullpen is a trainwreck. With just 20 pitches, freshman reliever Nick Morreale walked two, gave up three hits, and let five cross the plate.

Twenty pitches.

Georgetown is in the cellar for a reason, but if they can figure out how to finish games and quit sucking so much late in games, they might have a chance at coming in 6th place!