INTERVIEW WITH ED BLANKMEYER
INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN GROVE
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Designated hitter Robert Case broke a 3-3 tie with an RBI single in the eighth inning and rightfielder Kevin Grove followed with a backbreaking grand slam as St. John's took an 8-3 win against Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the BIG EAST Baseball Championship at Bright House Field.
The Red Storm - the No. 2 seed in the tournament - advance in the winners' bracket, where they will face No. 3-seeded Pittsburgh at 1 p.m. Thursday. The Bearcats will face Louisville Thursday at 10 a.m. in an elimination game.
St. John's had manufactured a run in the bottom of the first inning and strung together four straight hits in the third to build a 3-0 lead. But the Bearcats tied it with three runs in the top of the sixth before the Red Storm took over in the eighth.
After Joe Panik led off the eighth with a base hit and was sacrificed to second, all-American Jeremy Baltz was intentionally walked to set the table for Case. Case hit a 2-0 pitch to left for the go-ahead RBI, giving St. John's a 4-3 lead. First baseman Paul Karmas then battled through an 11-pitch at bat before he legged out an infield hit on a chopper to third, loading the bases for Grove. Grove took the second pitch he saw from reliever Andrew Strenge over the leftfield fence to clear the bases and give the Red Storm an 8-3 lead.
Red Storm starting pitcher Kyle Hansen cruised through the early going, retiring the Bearcats' first eight hitters in order and allowing just two baserunners through the first four innings. But Hansen found trouble in the fifth inning as a hit batsman and a base hit put two men on with no outs. Cincinnati's Matt Williams dropped a sacrifice bunt, and errant throw allowed Jake Proctor to score from second, and Sam Vandenheuvel delivered a double to left-center to tie the game.
Hansen struck out eight and walked one, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in seven innings of work. Reliever Stephen Rivera struck out four in two shutout innings to pick up the win, improving to 4-2 on the year.
Grove finished 3-for-4 to lead a St. John's lineup that saw eight of the nine batters register at least one hit. Panik was 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Baltz went 1-for-3 with two RBI for the Red Storm, who improved to 33-18.
Vandenheuvel went 3-for-3 with an RBI for Cincinnati (30-26), but the rest of the Bearcat lineup was a combined 2-for-28 on the day. Zach Isler took the loss, falling to 5-3.