Despite loss, St. John’s opens Mets’ park in style

It’s not every day college baseball players are able to get a taste of the professional life.

That’s why the Red Storm’s rubber match against Georgetown on Sunday was not just another game. After a 7-2 St. John’s win on Friday and a Hoyas 10-5 response on Saturday, both squads traveled to Citi Field for the series finale, the first game played in the New York Mets’ brand new stadium in Flushing.

There’s only one thing that could have made the Red Storm’s experience more memorable: a win. Georgetown used a four-run seventh inning to pounce on St. John’s pitching en route to a 6-4 Hoyas victory.

“It was a great experience for both programs,” head coach Ed Blankmeyer said. “I enjoyed it thoroughly, except we came out on the wrong side of the frame. But it’s something we’ll always remember.”

A familiar face for both Mets fans and St. John’s fans alike got things started on the rainy Sunday afternoon. John Franco, who wore the Johnnies’ uniform from 1979-81, received some sarcastic cheers as he bounced the ceremonial first pitch to St. John’s catcher, Danny Benedetti.

The Hoyas have official claim to the first run ever scored at Citi Field. Dan Capeless’ double off St. John’s starter Brendan Lobban set the stage for the field’s first RBI in the second inning. Georgetown’s Greg Pustizzi singled an 0-2 offering from Lobban to give the Hoyas the early lead and a mark in the history books.

At this point, St. John’s Big East foes also recorded the field’s first hit, a Tom Elliott single grounded to centerfield.

Lobban was called on in an important game in the Big East, something a freshman making his first start in the conference may not handle with ease. On top of that, he had to do it with a professional ballpark surrounding him.

“He pitched a very good ballgame,” Blankmeyer said. “After he got through the first inning with some jitters, he gave us six innings of two-run ball. He gave us what we wanted. We just didn’t finish the job for him.”

With the score tied at one apiece, St. John’s gave their young starter a lead in the top of the third when shortstop Joe Panik lined a single, bringing home Matt Wessinger and Jimmy Parque. The lead would be cut in half the following inning when the Hoyas’ Sean Lamont lifted the field’s first-ever home run into the left field bleachers.

Then with the Storm up 4-2, Lobban was replaced by Nick Cenatiempo. Five hits, an error and a pitching change later, Georgetown had their 6-4 lead and was able to close out the first-ever victory at Citi Field.

“The loss doesn’t take anything away from the day,” said Lobban, who grabbed a handful of dirt from the mound after the game. “Today was just phenomenal.”

In the series opener on Friday in Washington, D.C., senior co-captain Nick Luisi allowed just two runs in 7.1 innings to earn the win.

The lefty moved to 2-2 on the season thanks to strong relief outings by Cenatiempo and Miguel Valcarcel.

Panik continued his hot streak, going 4-for-4 with two RBIs. Brian Kemp stole his eighth base of the season.

In Saturday’s Georgetown victory, St. John’s pitching dug a hole the offense could not get out of. After an early Sean Baumann home run off Red Storm starter Bruce Kern, the Hoyas continued to pour on the hits off St. John’s relievers. Their five-run fifth inning was too much
to overcome.

The St. John’s offense, led by Jimmy Parque’s two-run homerun, attempted a rally, but would fall short at the hands of Georgetown’s pitching staff.

The schools anticipated to flirt with the NCAA attendance record, set at 40,106, on Sunday. However, the chilly and damp weather kept many fans away. With attendance announced at 22,397, the game now ranks seventh on the list.