Matt Tosoni did not want to give up the ball.
The left-hander cruised into the ninth inning against Connecticut Saturday, giving up only two runs on three hits through eight despite sitting through a more than two-hour rain delay.
But he got into some mild trouble in the top of the ninth with the game tied at two. Tosoni hit the first batter, Matt Untiet, and Larry Day bunted a pinch runner to second. His pitch count was at a high 91 for a player who was out all of last year with ulcerative colitis.
So coach Ed Blankmeyer made what seemed to be an easy decision: he brought in freshman reliever Rich Armento, who has been dominant at times this year.
“With me, I always want to be in control,” Tosoni said. “But he’s a pretty good guy to drop the ball off to.”
Armento had been indeed, with a 1.93 earned run average, all while striking out 26 in 23.1 innings.
The Huskies got the best of the right-hander Saturday though. He allowed Tosoni’s run to come in from second and a run of his own, leading to an eventual UConn victory, 4-2, at the Ballpark at St. John’s in the second game of the series. Connecticut (26-12, 13-3) also took the first game and the third and final game of the series was rained out Sunday.
Tosoni worked through those rain-soaked innings mostly undeterred – it was the waiting beforehand that really got to him.
“It’s always tough to do that,” Tosoni said. “We’re all on the field taking the tarp on and off.-You lose a bit of focus – as bad as it sounds, it’s true.”
The 6-foot-5 lefty didn’t lose much of his focus though, only allowing five baserunners throughout. The same could not be said for a St. John’s offense averaging close to nine runs a game coming in. The Johnnies had nine hits and left seven men on base.
After starting off 8-1 in the Big East, the young team has faced some growing pains, losing five straight in the league – more because of stronger competition than poor play. The first three conference opponents were mediocre squads: Villanova, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh. The most recent have been the best two in the league: Notre Dame, which swept St. John’s two weeks ago, and Connecticut.
“Let’s face it,” Blankmeyer said, “the level of the teams were different. You don’t look at the quick start, you look at the quality of the opponent. Are we playing as well as we’re capable of? No. Are we playing poorly? No.”
Blankmeyer will more than likely send some combination of Rob Delaney, Scott Barnes and Tosoni to the mound this weekend at Rutgers – another top conference opponent.
“You got to take a step backward before you can go forward,” Tosoni said. “Actually, in the long run, I think [the recent struggles] are going to help us.”
Connecticut 6, St. John’s 3
Delaney was knocked around for five runs on 10 hits in five innings as the Red Storm fell to the Huskies Friday in Jamaica. Designated hitter Anthony Smith went 3-for-5, drove in and scored a run for the Johnnies.