By Jason Schott – @JESchott19
The Seton Hall Pirates beat local rival St. John’s in a classic pitchers’ duel and the Creighton Blue Jays blew out Xavier to open the Big East Baseball Championship at MCU Park in Coney Island on Thursday night. This is the first time since 2007 that the Big East has held their baseball tournament in Brooklyn.
PREVOST OUTDUELS LOMANGINO: Josh Prevost went the distance for a complete game shutout to lead Seton Hall to a 1-0 win over St. John’s. Prevost allowed no runs on 4 hits, with 7 strikeouts and just 1 walk on an economical 100 pitches.
Prevost retired the first ten batters he faced, with the first hit coming from Jarred Mederos with one out in the fourth inning.
James Lomangino, who beat Prevost a week ago, was up to the task, and battled until the eighth inning. Lomangino went 7 1/3 innings, and allowed just 4 hits, struck out 7, and walked 3. They were nearly identical numbers to Prevost, except the pitch count, which got up to 122, which forced his exit from the game.
The only run of the game came in the second inning when Seton Hall shortstop D.J. Ruhlman doubled, and two batters later, was driven in by a double from Chris Selden. On if he thought that run would hold up, Selden said, “I was hoping not, but once we got along there, it just seemed like Lomangino was settling in and getting guys on his offspeed pitch…We had a couple of other opportunities where we didn’t execute with guys at third base. I would never think that that’s gonna be the only run of the game.”
Lomangino left with one out in the eighth, and he said of being pulled in a pitchers’ duel, “Coach tried to take me out in the seventh, but I wanted to go back out and give the team a chance to hang around, maybe break through. It was tough coming out, but they let me know I only had one batter left, so I knew I was coming out after that batter.”
Lomangino’s 122 pitches was the most he threw all year, and Blankmeyer said, “I was standing in the dugout and said, ‘no more than 120 for this guy.’ He’ll pitch forever, but he’s got a career after this. Winning is not that important to me – he would have kept on pitching, that’s the way the kid is.”
Thomas Hackimer came in for Lomangino, and got Seton Hall third baseman Kyle Grimm to ground out. Seton Hall first baseman Sal Annunziata then lined one up the middle, which St. John’s shortstop Bret Dennis did a nice job of tracking down, but he made a wild throw, which allowed Annunziata to reach. Dennis was charged with an error, which was a bit harsh considering the job he did just getting to the ball and that he had to rush the throw. If it were Derek Jeter, I doubt it would have been charged an error.
D.J. Ruhlman singled up the middle, but Tyler Boyd grounded to third baseman Robbie Knightes, who stepped on the bag to force out Annunziata.
Prevost retired St. John’s on five pitches in the bottom of the eighth. Seton Hall got two runners on again in the ninth, as Chris Selden singled to center, and with two outs, Derek Jenkins worked out a walk. St. John’s pitcher Joey Graziano entered the game at this point and tried the oldest trick in the book, fake the pick-off throw to third and turn to first, and it worked. Graziano looked like he was going to get Selden, who was leaning off third, but instead went to first and got Jenkins, who was already halfway to second, out in a rundown to end the inning.
On if Jenkins was given the ‘green light’ to steal second base, Seton Hall Head Coach Rob Sheppard said, “He was running, we were trying to get him going a little bit. We were going to try to use it as a first and third to get Chris (Selden) to sneak in there (home), but they executed well and got the out before the run scored.”
Prevost came out for the bottom of the ninth and walked Alex Caruso on five pitches to open the inning. At this point, Seton Hall Associate Head Coach Phil Cundari went to the mound to talk to Prevost, who said of their conversation, “He said, ‘Get that smirk off your face, that wasn’t a strike, and just keep battling,’ and be aggressive like you had been all game.”
On if he was considering pulling him, Head Coach Rob Sheppard said, “Coach Cundari was the one who went out there and made sure he was focused, but no, pitch count, he had 83 pitches going into the ninth inning and he’s been efficient all year, and he’s our guy, and he’s competing, so there was no chance.”
Prevost stayed in and got Jarred Mederos to ground out. Lefthanded hitter Troy Dixon came in to pinch-hit for Robert Wayman, and he hit one up the middle, and beat out a throw from Seton Hall second baseman Chris Chiaradio to make it first and third for St. John’s. Prevost then struck out Matt Harris and got Bret Dennis to fly to center field to end it.
On his mindset in the ninth, Prevost said, “Just trying to throw some strikes, hope my defense makes some plays for me, and they did.” On if he was too amped in the ninth trying to close it out, Prevost said, “I was just trying to aim the ball instead of attacking like I had been all game. Caruso’s a good leadoff hitter, didn’t want to leave anything over the plate, so I got too picky. I can’t take it back, he had a good at-bat, I just battled after that.”
On if that ninth inning was agonizing, Sheppard said, “It’s baseball, and Josh likes to keep it interesting. We had all the confidence in the world that Josh was going to do the job, and our defense played really well tonight, and as always, Josh wasefficient and attacked the zone. He was aggressive.”
On playing a 1-0 game, Sheppard said, “We scratched out a run early, we were able to execute, and both pitchers threw well. Josh did a really good job, their staff did a nice job as well. This is clean baseball, this is not guerrilla ball, as everybody wants to bring the old bats back and juice up the ball. To me, this is more exciting than seeing guys just dip and jack. It’s a little tough on your stomach, but it’s good baseball.”
St. John’s Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer said, “It was a great college baseball game by two great pitchers tonight. I think James on our end just made maybe one bad pitch, bulldoged his way out of a couple innings, kept us right there, and the Prevost kid just pitched well. We were chasing sliders, we just couldn’t stay off it, got to give him credit. We had a couple opportunities, just couldn’t get the hit.”
“That’s the way baseball is, this guy (Lomangino) deserved it as well as the other guy (Prevost) did. The difference in the ballgame was they ran his pitch count up, and we didn’t run the other guy’s pitch count up. We did that last week against him, we got him out. We gave him some difficult innings, but he didn’t really have a difficult inning the whole night,” said Blankmeyer.
CREIGHTON OUTSLUGS XAVIER: The Creighton Blue Jays blew out the Xavier Musketeers 9-2 in the opening game of the doubleheader.
What started out as a well-pitched game between Xavier’s Scott Klever and Creighton’s Matt Warren turned into a slugfest in the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Creighton leadoff hitter, left fielder Brad McKewon got a two-run double followed by a sacrifice fly from Ryan Fitzgerald to score McKewon to make it 3-0. A few batters later, Reagan Fowler got an RBI single to make it 4-0 Creighton.
After Xavier got two in the top of the sixth, Creighton started a two-out rally in the bottom half of the inning. It started when the ninth-place hitter Cody Kottich walked, followed by a McKewon single and Fitzgerald walk to load the bases. Jake Peter then laced a triple into the left field corner to clear the bases and make it 7-2 Creighton. Mike Gerber was up next and he hit a towering fly ball to right field that went into the bleachers for a home run to open up a 9-2 lead for Creighton.
FRIDAY DOUBLEHEADER: The Big East Baseball Championship continues Friday with St. John’s against Xavier at 4:00 followed by Seton Hall against Creighton. The next game is on Saturday at 3:00 pm, followed by the championship game on Sunday at 1:00 pm.