Weekend Split with VT Leaves Storm Fourth in the Big East

A look atop the Big East standings shows that seven teams, including St. John’s, are fighting for just four spots in the Big East Tournament.

“Every weekend is important. Every game is important,” said Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer. “We have to take it a series at a time and make sure we handle the games we’re supposed to handle.”

Two wins against Virginia Tech would have given St. John’s sole possession of second place in the conference, but the Johnnies (18-15, 8-6) only managed a split against the Hokies (17-15, 8-6) on April 14, winning the opener 2-1 but falling 8-5 in the second game.

In the first game, Virginia Tech jumped out to a 1-0 lead against Brian Dorsey in the second inning. With one out, Chris Hutchison scored on a single by Spencer Harris.

Tech’s Chip Runyon retired the first seven batters he faced, but when Ray Downs took a 1-0 offering over the center field wall, the first St. John’s player to hit the batter’s eye some 395 feet away, the score was tied 1-1.

“I went up there looking for the one fastball I was probably going to see in my whole at-bat,” Downs said. “The first pitch he threw me a curveball. Second pitch, the fastball came. I just took a hack at it and got a nice piece of it.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Jim Martin led off with a single and moved to second on a bunt single by Anthony DeRosa. After Chad Cambra hit into a fielder’s choice, Downs was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Josh Young.

Young hit a fly ball to left field, scoring DeRosa and giving the Johnnies a walk-off victory.

After a rocky start, Dorsey set down the side in three of the final four innings. “They got themselves out a lot,” Dorsey said. “Early in the count, they were getting themselves out on fastballs.”

In the second match-up, the Red Storm had trouble capitalizing on opportunities all game long, starting in the first inning. With one out, Martin grounded into a double play with the bases loaded, ending any SJU threat.

In the second. Virginia Tech went ahead when Wyatt Toregas singled home John West. The Storm came right back in the bottom half of the inning when Mike Rozema doubled with two outs and scored on a single by Asa Grunenwald.

Brad Bauder and Harris hit back-to-back homers to left to put the Hokies on top in the fourth.

St. John’s took its only lead of the game in the fifth. Billy Graiser singled, stole second and scored on a double by DeRosa, which brought Charlie Bilezikjian to the plate. Bilezikjian helped his own cause by hitting a two-run blast to left.

However, things fell apart for the senior in the seventh. Two singles to start the inning put runners on the corners for Hutchison. The senior hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.

Tech took the lead on a double steal when Toregas took off for second and Marc Tugwell headed for home – and both made it safely. “The biggest play of the game was that we picked the guy off, first and third, and we don’t get an out,” Blankmeyer said. “That was the key play of the game right there.”

The Hokies added another run in the eighth, when Tugwell’s long fly ball scored English.

The bases were loaded for the Johnnies in the bottom of the inning, but Bilezikjian grounded into a double play that scored the last run of the game.

Josh Biber picked up the win in relief, while Bilezikjian fell to 2-5. Matt Dalton earned his fifth save.