Today was a great day for BIG EAST baseball. For the second consecutive day Villanova beat Xavier, the score 1-0, a feat so monumental in its roots that it can bring a sense of calm and cool to the entire college baseball world. Granted, losing a series to the really bad Wildcats only fuels Xavier’s vengeful visions of grandeur as they will undoubtedly run the table the rest of the season, creating their own sense of Musketeer carnage.
In the later game, Butler finally came back to earth and allowed the Pirates of Seton Hall to throttle them handily. 6-1 was the final, yet Butler’s improbable victory yesterday likely left John Fanta shaking his head and staring into an empty glass of white wine.
In the nightcap, we were treated to yet another fantastic ballgame in Omaha between the 14th ranked Johnnies and the surprising underdog in the Bluejays.
It appeared that this was going to be an absolute slaughter in the top of the first, as the score was 2-0 before you could properly shake your fist, with John Valente singling with a beauty of a bunt to on just the third pitch of the game. He was brought home by a Jesse Berardi triple to deep left center, and he too eventually made it home on a single by Tony Brocato.
After Gui Gingras flied out to center, Brocato swiped second base with relative ease. He was left there, stranded, naked, alone, and a little nauseous after Josh Shaw watched the third strike on a full count.
2-0, St. John’s.
There was an announced crowd of 3,500 spectators at TD Ameritrade Park tonight, which isn’t all that surprising since it was a gorgeous evening - 75 with a smoke filled atmosphere - and they played their part all night. In the multiple instances that a Creighton batter got beaned with a ball and was subsequently called back to the plate, the crowd roared and hissed.
They finally had an opportunity to get raucous and resemble a home crowd in the bottom of the fourth, when Riley Landuyt (HBP), Will Robertson (BB), and Parker Upton (base hit) all found their way onto the basepaths.
Bases loaded. Two outs. A St. John’s pitcher on the ropes.
Clark Brinkman to the dish.
On the third pitch offered by St. John’s pitcher Jeff Belge, Brinkman connected and sent a screaming shot down the left field line, past the third baseman, and the three runners aboard began a frenzied dash to score. The ball would travel all the way to the corner, offering the base runners enough time to touch home, while Brinkman stood defiantly on second.
The aforementioned crowd went absolutely apeshit. In a pretty empty stadium, the fans made their impact, and the Bluejays came pouring out of the dugout to welcome their teammates back from their journey around the diamond.
Jeff ‘the King of the Anthills’ Albrecht was nothing short of masterful tonight. The royal lefty, aside from the shaky first inning, forced batters into weak groundouts up the middle and flyouts to his zippy outfielders, while striking out 7 batters in an unyielding performance of pure power and control. It was a marvel to watch him work against this contact-heavy St. John’s lineup, and in his 8 innings of work it was clear that his royal stuff overpowered the evil empire’s will to swing away.
The Creighton offense got churning again in the bottom of the sixth when Parker Upton singled to start the inning off. Clark Brinkman moved Upton over to second on a sac bunt, followed by Isaac Collins acquiring a meat unit to put him on first. With two on and one out, Tommy Luevano destroyed a baseball to the left center gap to score Upton and Collins. Luevano would be stranded on third, but the damage had been done.
It wouldn’t be long for the Johnnies to answer back, as they turned a walk into a run after Michael Emodi and Isaac Collins combined for two consecutive errors. They tacked one on yet the King remained relatively unfazed.
Creighton wasn’t done scoring just yet. In the bottom half of the 8th, Luevano and Emodi acquired back-to-back meat units as St. John’s pitcher Aaron Herr was clearly a bit shaken up. On the very next pitch it became clear that the Jays were aware of Herr’s inability to perform, as a double steal was put on and successfully ran as Herr tossed the ball to the backstop. That sort of forward thinking and aggressive call isn’t in Ed Servais’s playbook.
That’s because Ed Servais had left the field.
In what appears to be an illness that struck him in the later innings, Servais abandoned his post and allowed assistant coach and recruiting extraordinaire Rich Wallace to serve as interim third base coach. Wallace enjoys a more aggressive style of ball, which may account for the double steal.
Regardless, Riley Landuyt launched a ball deep into the Omaha night, bounding it to the ‘375’ sign in left center field, scoring both Luevano and Emodi. The Bluejay bench exploded with a fevered celebration as the two came into the dugout.
This wasn’t the Bluejay ballclub we’d been accustomed to seeing all year long. This was something new, energized, and full of an underdog spirit. St. John’s had no match.
The ninth inning arrived and what resulted was a mix of dread with a frightening elation as shutdown closer Dave Gerber allowed one run to score (albeit on a Collins goof up) and loaded the bases with two outs, letting the potential winning run to swing the aluminum pipe.
Gerber, in a somewhat ironic but somewhat not turn of events, got Mike Antico to ground out to Isaac Collins.