As senior catcher Joe Witkowski jogged off the field in favor of a pinch runner following his leadoff single in the ninth inning on Sunday, Frankie Schwindell stayed loose in the dugout.
“When you see your spot coming up, you run down the line a bit, put your hands by the heater,” Schwindel said. “I saw Joe needed a pinch runner, saw I had the opportunity and stayed ready.”
St. John’s, down 4-3 in the finale against Cincinnati, scraped together a run to send the game to extra innings, and the freshman catcher delivered a game-winning RBI single in the 10th to complete the sweep, 5-4, of the Bearcats at Jack Kaiser Stadium.
“You’ve got to use your entire roster and that’s huge if you can rely on your back-up players,” head coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “They really came through big for us today.”
The win extended the Red Storm’s current winning streak to seven games after the 2010 Big East champions dropped four straight on a road trip to North Carolina back in late February.
“It keeps the ball rolling,” said junior pitcher Brendan Lobban, who started the finale. “We’ve got a target on our back and everyone wants to beat us. If we start strong in conference play, though, it’ll really help us at the end of the year.”
Lobban kept the Bearcats off the board until the fifth, when he allowed a two-out, bases-loaded single to Jake Proctor down the left field line that scored two runs and then a sky-high pop-up to the next batter, Chris Peters, that fell in between second baseman Matt Wessinger and right fielder Paul Talbut for two more.
“You either win, lose, or beat yourselves, and we nearly beat ourselves today,” Blankmeyer said.
Lobban retired six of the last seven batters he faced and earned a no-decision through seven innings of work. “You’ve got to treat it like it never happened,” Lobban said. “You’ve just got to keep going and go to the next batter. Stuff like that happens. You’ve got to move on from it.”
Steven Rivera and Matt Carasiti did not allow a base runner in relief for the Red Storm. Carasiti, who faced just one batter in the 10th, earned the win. St. John’s 9, Cincinnati 4 The Red Storm took advantage of a six-run sixth inning as Witkowski hit a two-run single, center fielder Kyle Richardson hit an RBI single and left fielder Jeremy Baltz hit a three-run double to extend St. John’s lead to 8-0.
“There really wasn’t any pressure on me last year and some say that’s why I had a good year,” Baltz said. “I’m not trying to do too much at the plate, but just trying to put good swings on the ball and hit solid line drives.”
Junior Kevin Kilpatrick threw 7 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits. St. John’s 3, Cincinnati 2 Sophomore Kyle Hansen struck out 10 batters through seven innings of work as St. John’s earned the series-opening win.
Tied at one, the Red Storm scored two runs in the third as Jeremy Baltz hit an RBI single that scored Wessinger and junior shortstop Joe Panik scored on a wild pitch later in the inning.