As coach Fred Hill gave an interview after the victory, he was doused with the obligatory Gatorade bath, getting a rousing ovation from the Rutgers fans.
The Jack Kaiser Award, which goes to the tournament's most valuable player, was awarded to Todd Frazier who tied or set tournament records for doubles, runs scored, and hits.
With Rutgers taking pitchers behind the mound and the fans celebrating a Big East title, let me say that it's been a pleasure reporting to you from the Big East tournament at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn, New York. Have a great Memorial Day weekend and enjoy your summer.
Touching the Bases is around the country following all the action, but so long from Brooklyn.
The Huskies could not have asked for anything more. After Brannon singled and Larry Day hit a soft popout to short, senior captain Dennis Donovan stepped to the plate. But Donovan got under a 2-2 pitch, flying out to center field only one run shy of tying the ball game.
The Scarlet Knights exploded onto the field, mobbing one another just in front of second base on the infield grass in celebration while the dejected Huskies hung their heads in disappointment. But both teams walked off to rousing ovations from their fans.
Connecticut's only hope of making it to postseason play was winning today. They came in as the 8th seed, sneaking in to the tournament with a 9th-inning win over Notre Dame on the season's last weekend.
Rutgers, meanwhile, came in to the tournament as the co-regular season champions and likely would've gotten in to the tournament either way.
Lillis came on to get pinch-hitter Matt Karl to ground out to short, but a double, a single, and a balk drove in 2. Peter Fatse then unloaded on a pitch that landed in the bleachers in right field to cut the deficit to 7-6. UConn's team exploded off the bench and the fans came to their feet.
Now, the Huskies only trail by a run with 1 away and Dale Brannon and Larry Day due up. They'll face reliever Kevin Lillis, Chris' younger brother.
Steve Healing has been brilliant so far today, but UConn's first two batters have singled and doubled to drive home a run, cutting the deficit to 7-2 and chasing Healing from the game in favor of Chris Lillis.
Healing turned in a phenomenal game, throwing 100 pitches - 63 for strikes - and allowing only 7 hits and the pair of runs thus far. He personally handed the ball to Lillis, was hugged by each of his teammates, and got a huge ovation from the Rutgers faithful.
Still nobody out though, and the Huskies still trail by 5.
Rutgers' catcher Frank Meade unloaded on David Erickson's 1-2 pitch with a runner on 2nd and 2 down, driving it over the left centerfield wall and giving the Scarlet Knights a 6 run cushion heading to the 9th.
The Huskies now have an even bigger hole to climb out of, and will send their 5-7 hitters to the plate needing 6 to keep their tournament and postseason hopes alive.
The Rutgers defense stymied the Huskies in the top of the 8th, and UConn is now 3 outs away from seeing its dream come to an end.
Dale Brannon hit a hot liner down the right field line that was snagged by Tom Edwards, and Larry Day had an infield hit taken away from him when Tim Querns fielded a slow roller on the run, spun, and fired in time to get the out. Dennis Donovan grounded out to Frazier on a routine play and the Huskies are in a lot of trouble now.
Stretch time here at Keyspan Park, and the Huskies are down to their final 6 outs and still trail Rutgers.
Rutgers' starter Steve Healing has been dominant in the last 5 innings. Since allowing a run in the second, Healing has allowed only 3 singles to the Huskies. He gave up a 1-out base hit to Josh Farkes, but got the next two hitters to pop out on in the infield.
The base paths looked like the Belt Parkway for a moment when two runners came home one after the other. Edwards doubled off the wall in deep center, but Bionde had to hold up off second. Williams, however, did not hold up, and found himself only a few feet behind Bionde. Gordon Stevens relayed the ball to Dennis Donovan, whose throw home was too late to get Bionde but on time to get Williams. Tarsi got out of the inning when the next hitter grounded out to Donovan.
Garry only got one out, sandwiched between walks to Mike Bionde and Dave Williams. With Tom Edwards due up and only 1 away, the Huskies have turned to the pen again, this time bringing on Mike Tarsi - normally a starting pitcher - as the third hurler of the inning.
Todd Frazier crushed the fourth pitch of the inning from Robert Van Woert over the Cyclone roller coaster imitation on top of the scoreboard in left center to put Rutgers back ahead by 3. The blast chased Van Woert from the game, and left-hander Ted Garry has come on to pitch.
Rutgers third baseman Tim Querns turned a spectacular double play, bobbling the ball but still setting in motion the 5-4-3 inning ending double play to get the Scarlet Knights out of a 1st-and-2nd, 1-out jam. Credit Mike Bionde with a spectacular turn at second, standing in to make the throw despite Dale Brannon bearing down on him.
After the Huskies were set down in order in the top of the 4th, UConn's gloves went to work.
Tim Gossard grounded the ball to the third and Pat Mahoney fielded the ball on a short hop on the run and fired to first for the out. The second batter, Tim Querns, smacked a ball to center field but Gordon Stevens got a good jump and made a nice play. Then after issuing a 2-out walk to Frank Meade, Van Woert came off the mound to backhand a bunt by Donny Callahan and threw out Rutgers' 9th place hitter to retire the side.
Robert Van Woert settled down after a rocky first inning to set the Scarlet Knights down in order. Todd Frazier gave him a scare, driving a pitch 411 feet to straight away center field. Fortunately for Van Woert, the fence is 412 feet away.
With 0 out and Pat Mahoney on first, Brad Olt grounded to second for an easy double play. Bionde flipped the ball to Frazier, who came across second and didn't touch the base before throwing to first. Second base umpire Mike Shields correctly called Mahoney safe - opting against the old "neighborhood call" for the right call. Fred Hill came out to argue, but the call stood.
The Huskies took advantage of the good umpiring and Josh Farkes belted a run-scoring double to right to cut the deficit to 2. Gordon Stevens walked to put 2 on, but Healing recovered and set down the next 2 hitters.
Big East Title Game: First Inning Jitters Favor Rutgers
Rutgers' starter Steve Healing (9-3, 3.67) missed the plate with his first five pitches and eventually found himself in a 2 on, 1 out situation facing the Huskies' 4 and 5 hitters, Dennis Donovan and Matt Untiet. But both men popped out to right field to end the threat.
Meanwhile, UConn starter Robert Van Woert (7-2, 3.76) walked Todd Frazier and Mike Bionde leading off the bottom of the 1st. He got the next two Scarlet Knights to fly out to left, but on a 3-1 pitch to Tom Edwards, the runners went in motion and Larry Day through to second to try to get Bionde. But the ball went into centerfield, scoring Frazier and giving Rutgers the first run of the ball game.
And the trouble didn't stop there. Van Woert would walk Gossard and then serve up a soft single to right to Gossard, scoring Bionde. Farkes misplayed the ball and Day could not handle the throw, allowing Edwards to score all the way from first.
The stands along the first-base line are mostly empty, save for a decent-sized group of UConn fans toward the last few rows who have taken shade. But along the third base line, the stands are filled with a large Scarlet-clad contingency who have been cheering for the Scarlet Knights since the introductions.
It's the last day of the Big East baseball tournament and it's still absolutely gorgeous outside. In fact, it might be a little too gorgeous, with the sun bearing down on us here in the outdoor press box. I've had to move to the front row, away from the shade, for ESPNU's telecast of the game, so it's even warmer than I've been the last couple of days.
Regardless, what a baseball game we're going to have for you today. Rutgers hosts Connecticut, with the winner getting an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament and the Big East title.
UConn - the 8th seed - took 2 games from USF last night to get here, while Rutgers beat Louisville twice yesterday to advance.
These two teams are vastly different. UConn has scored 19 runs in the entire tournament, and hasn't scored more than 8. Meanwhile, Rutgers has put up 40 runs in the tournament and has reached double digits 3 times.
Something's gotta give.
Stick with Touching the Bases as we bring you all the action from the Big East title game.
The unlikeliest of unlikely teams, the 8th seed Connecticut Huskies, will play Rutgers tomorrow for the Big East title after beating USF 2-0.
The Huskies needed to beat USF twice today to advance to tomorrow's championship game, and they did just that, topping the Bulls 3-0 during the day and 2-0 during the night cap. It will be the Huskies' first appearance in the title game since 1994.
Brendan McGinn was stellar, shutting out the Bulls by going the distance, scattering 4 hits and walking 4 over 9 innings while striking out 7.
UConn got both of its runs in the 7th on back-to-back 2-out doubles by Matt Untiet and Pat Mahoney.
Tomorrow's title game is all set as the 2nd seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights will take the Huskies. Rutgers is the home team, and UConn will be the visitors.
Touching the Bases will be here with all of the coverage from Keyspan Park tomorrow. The game starts at 1 pm.
USF and UConn waited until the top of the 8th for any runs to cross earlier today, but they're ahead of that pace.
After Larry Day singled with 1 out, he advanced to second on a wild pitch and went to third when Dennis Donovan flied out to deep center field. Then on a 1-2 offering to Matt Untiet, USF starter Yuri Higgins uncorked his second wild pitch of the inning and Day slid safely into home just before Higgins could apply the tag. Untiet then drove a 2-out double off the left field wall, and Pat Mahoney followed up with a wall-banging double of his own, driving in Untiet for the second run of the inning and chasing Higgins from the game.
Danny Otero - the Bulls' starter on Tuesday and likely starter should they advance to the title game tomorrow - came on in relief of Higgins and induced a comebacker to end the inning.
The Huskies - an unlikely partner for the Scarlet Knights tomorrow, as the number 8 seed in the tournament - find themselves now only 6 outs away the championship game.
With only one base runner since the third (it's now the 6th, and that base runner just reached at 9:46), we've had to keep ourselves busy here in the press box, and a routine grounder in the bottom of the 5th provided us with that chance.
With 1 out, Pat Mahoney grounded up the middle and second baseman Dexter Butler ranged to his right and made the play. Some, including myself, thought the ball hit the pitcher's glove, which would make it a play scored 1-4-3. However, no one was truly sure. After some thorough investigation and diligence by official scorer Mex Carey, it was determined that the batted ball did not hit the glove of USF pitcher Yuri Higgins, and that it should be scored only 4-3.
While Rutgers waits to figure out who it will play tomorrow afternoon, USF and UConn are still deciding among themselves, and so far nobody has emerged with the score tied at zeroes.
After USF loaded the bases but couldn't score in the third, it went down 1-2-3 in the third. UConn's 9th place hitter Gordon Stevens singled with one out in the 3rd but he was picked off, and USF starter Yuri Higgins set down the Huskies in order. Higgins has struck out 4 of the last 7 Huskies he's faced.
After USF's 9th place hitter led off the 3rd with a single, leadoff hitter Walter Diaz grounded the ball back to the pitcher for what looked like a double play ball. But Huskies SS Dennis Donovan bobbled the ball at second and both runners were safe. Then Ty Taborelli bunted back to the pitcher, and McGinn looked to third - except no one was covering. He then fired late to first to load the bases.
McGinn then recovered and pitched brilliantly, striking out Dexter Butler and getting clean-up hitter Addison Maruszak to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play and keep the score tied at 0.
More importantly, two innings in the books and the score is tied at 0-0.
USF has only two base runners, a single to lead off the game and a 2-out walk in that first frame. UConn's McGinn has struck out 3 Bulls so far.
The Huskies meanwhile were extremely close. After USF's Higgins set the first 5 batters down, Pat Mahoney tripled to center after Ty Taborelli dove but could not come up with the ball. Brad Olt, however, could not deliver, stranding the UConn third baseman at home.
The stands are still extremely empty, save for about 50 UConn fans spread throughout the 3rd base stands, 20 USF fans behind the first base dugout, and about 100-150 other fans. It's an absolutely perfect night for baseball though, with a cool temperature and a slight breeze blowing out toward left center.
The game just started and the view from the press box is pretty amazing. The lights are on here at Keyspan Park, including the neon light rings around the lights atop each pole. The Astroland pole is lit up, the Cyclone sign is lit up, as are the ferris wheel and practically every single amusement beyond the left field wall. The big tower beyond the stands down the right field line is blinking red lights as well. What a sight.
And they've rolled out dessert here in the press box - a tremendous array of cake-like cookies.
We're about 10 minutes away from USF and UConn part 2. After the Huskies beat the Bulls earlier, these two teams will square off once more, with the winner facing Rutgers in the title game tomorrow.
USF will throw Yuri Higgins out to the mound. He's 5-3 with a 4.93 ERA. He'll be facing Brendan McGinn, who is 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA.
UConn's lineup is exactly the same as it was earlier, but USF has made multiple changes. Nick Cardieri starts at DH instead of Charles Cleveland, Josh LeRoy replaces Mike Consolmagno in left, and Brad Karns replaces Braulio Pardo behind the plate. Only the 1, 3 and 4 hitters - Walter Diaz, Dexter Butler, and Addison Maruszak - stay the same for the Bulls.
With nobody out and a runner on 1st, Daniel Burton roped a liner that was ticketed to left field and would've brought Isaiah Howes to the plate as the go-ahead run. Instead, Tim Querns stuck out his glove to make a spectacular grab and doubled up Logan Johnson off first. Howes was hit by a pitch, but Jorge Castillo lined out to Todd Frazier, sending Louisville home and Rutgers to the Big East title game.
Sean Spicer was brilliant, going the distance for his 3rd win of the season. He scattered 5 hits over the 9 innings and allowed only 1 run, a home run by Howes.
The Rutgers faithful erupted after Querns' play, and the Scarlet Knights walked off the field to a rousing ovation.
Now, the waiting game begins for Louisville. The Cardinals have a strong case to make it to the tournament, having won 40 games for the first time in school history this year. But if USF or UConn were to beat Rutgers tomorrow, Louisville would be the 3rd team in line for at-large consideration.
The final score is 3-1 in favor of Rutgers.
Our next game will determine Rutgers' opponent, as the 8th seeded UConn Huskies play host to the 5th seeded USF Bulls.
Stay with Touching the Bases as our coverage rolls on here at Keyspan Park.
We head to the 9th inning, and one team will be heading home after this inning, while the other will be headed to the Big East title game.
Louisville went 1-2-3 in the top half of the 8th, while Magnuson held down the fort in the bottom half, working around a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt to strike out the final 2 batters of the inning.
But the Cardinals head to bat in the top of the 9th down 2 runs and down to their final 3 outs. They will send the 2-4 hitters to the plate, including Isaiah Howes, who has 3 homers today, including 1 in this game back in the 7th. Louisville will still face Sean Spicer, who thus far has given up 1 run on 4 hits over 99 pitches and 8 innings of work. This is only Spicer's 4th start of the year, and his longest outing.
Louisville seems to be playing with a sense of urgency as we've reached the 7th inning stretch at Keyspan Park.
Isaiah Howes lead off the top of the 7th with a long fly to left center that just kept carrying, and eventually landed on the other side of the wall, cutting the deficit to 3-1. It was Howes' 3rd home run of the day and his 4th of the tournament, making him the first player in Big East history to hit 4 jacks in a single tournament. Jorge Castillo then singled to right.
But Chris Dominguez flied out and Pete Rodriguez, on a hit and run, hit the ball directly to the second base bag, where Mike Bionde fielded the ball, stepped on second, and fired to first to complete the double play. If the runner hadn't been in motion, that ball was likely ticketed for center field and 2 on with 1 out. Instead, 6 and a half in the books.
The sun is setting here in Brooklyn and shadows are creeping on to the field here at Keyspan Park, as we're through 5 innings of play with Rutgers now ahead by 3.
Louisville threatened in the top of the 5th after Pete Rodriguez doubled with one out and advanced to third on a fly out to center. But Chris Cates popped out to shortstop to end the threat, much to the delight of the hundred or so Rutgers fans seated in the stands on the third base side.
The Scarlet Knights got a leadoff walk from Tom Edwards, but traded runners for an out when Jon Gossard grounded into a fielder's choice. It looked as though James Belanger and the Cardinals would escape the inning unscathed when Tim Querns grounded a double-play ball to Cates at short. But Cates bobbled the ball and no outs were recorded, and Frank Meade smacked a triple to left center, driving in 2. Belanger got another out before intentionally walking Frazier and hitting Bionde to load the bases for Ryan Hill. But the Rutgers left fielder popped out to third, ending the threat.
Both teams got through the first 3 innings scoreless and hitless, but that has changed.
The Cardinals did get their first hit of the ball game, a seeing-eye single to lead off the 4th by Logan Johnson. He advanced to third after a Daniel Burton sac bunt and a wild pitch, but he was stranded their.
The Scarlet Knights got their first hit too, an infield single by Todd Frazier leading off the inning. Mike Bionde bunted him to second, and he scored when Dave Williams roped a pitch to right center that dropped for a double. Williams was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, but the Scarlet Knights took the lead.
Whatever USF and UConn were drinking, they must've given some to the Scarlet Knights and the Cardinals. Two innings in the books here at Keyspan and both teams' potent bats have been quiet. That's right, we're still scoreless. It looks like these teams used up their day's allotment of runs in the first game.
The first inning of Rutgers vs. Louisville produced 0 runs, despite the teams playing a 12-10 contest earlier. On Wednesday, the teams scored 1 run apiece in the first, while earlier today Rutgers scored 2 and Louisville scored 3 in the first.
The Scarlet Knights and Cardinals are about to get started for the second time today, with the winner of this game facing off against the winner of the next game tomorrow in the Big East title game.
Rutgers, the home team, will send Sean Spicer to the mound with his 2-1 record and 4.70 ERA, while the visitors send James Belanger - a local kid from North Babylon - to the mound with a 1-3 record and a 3.64 ERA.
Stay here as Touching the Bases covers all the action from Keyspan Park.
The Connecticut Huskies' improbable run through the Big East tournament will continue at least for one more game after UConn defeated USF 3-0 at Keyspan park.
UConn rallied behind starter Greg Nappo who was brilliant, scattering 3 hits over 9 innings and shutting out the Bulls to force a second game between the two teams later in the evening.
All of UConn's runs came in an 8th inning explosion with 2 outs. USF starter Matt Quevedo and reliever Shawn Sanford allowed only 7 hits during the game, but for the Huskies it was just enough. The two teams will play this evening, likely sometime around 10 pm, with the winner getting a berth in the title game.
Meanwhile, our next game is a rematch of Rutgers and Louisville. The Cardinals took the first matchup 8-1 on Wednesday, while the Scarlet Knights stayed alive with a 12-10 victory earlier today.
Huskies' second baseman Dale Brannon doubled to lead off the 8th, and advanced to third on a ground out to first. If not for a diving stop by Daniel Brandin, Brannon might have scored. That chased USF starter Matt Quevedo, who turned in 6 brilliant innings. He was relieved by right-hander Shawn Sanford. His first task was senior captain Dennis Donovan, who popped out to second for out number 2. Matt Untiet then walked on a 3-2 pitch that was awfully close, but ruled a ball. Pat Mahoney then unloaded on a pitch, doubling down the left field line to drive in 2. Brad Olt then joined the party, singling to right to drive in Mahoney from 2nd and make it 3-0.
USF then went down in order, meaning the Huskies - the 8th seeded UConn Huskies - are now only 3 outs away from forcing one more game.
The Huskies threatened - any base runner is a threat at this point - with a 2-out single by 9th place hitter Gordon Stevens, but nothing came of it as Peter Fatse grounded out to end the top half of the 7th.
After the stretch, it looked as though USF would go quietly when the first two batters were retired. But Addison Maruszak roped a 2-out double to left centerfield, the first runner in scoring position for the Bulls all day long. DH Charles Cleveland then walked, but Ty Taborelli flied out to Fatse in left, who sno-coned the ball for the out.
Big East: Still Nothing, but an Interesting Louisville Story
Matt Quevedo and Greg Nappo seem to have settled in (although they never really seemed unsettled), as Quevedo worked around his second 2-out walk of the game to set the Huskies down and Nappo struck out 2 in setting the Bulls down 1-2-3.
Meanwhile, in speaking to Louisville SID Sean Moth, I learned that Louisville reliever Trystan Magnuson, who struck out Todd Frazier with the bases loaded on Wednesday, has been in contact with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Orioles' pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Not bad for a 5th year walk-on senior with an 0.98 ERA, who was cut from his high school baseball team and received only one scholarship offer - which was to play violin at the University of Kentucky. Magnuson was clocked at 96 in that sequence against Frazier.
UConn senior captain and clean-up hitter Dennis Donovan lead off with a walk, stole second, and advanced to third after the throw ricocheted off the shortstop's glove and into right field. Matt Untiet struck out on the pitch for the first out, and with the lead run 90 feet away, Matt Quevedo dug deep and induced Pat Mahoney to pop out to second and Brad Olt to look at strike 3 for the final out.
In the bottom half of the 4th, right fielder Josh Farkes played Mike Consolmagno into a terrible mistake. Farkes faked like he caught the ball - even though it had landed for a single - making Consolmagno scamper back to first. But the Huskies recorded the 9-4-6 put-out for the first out of the inning, drawing the ire of coach Martinez at first. The Huskies then turned a 6-4-3 double play to retire the side.
UConn's 1-3 hitters went down 1-2-3 in the top half of the 3rd, and USF went quietly as well, save for 8th place hitter Brandin Daniel being hit on the arm by a pitch.
There's probably more excitement on the beach right now, which is absolutely jam-packed on this gorgeous day. I don't want to say that the crowd isn't interested in the game, but I've heard almost nothing out of them since the opening introductions. Even the base coaches seem uninterested, although I'm sure USF first base coach Tino Martinez has been in enough big games to make a Big East tournament semifinal seem unimportant.
UConn put runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 away, but Quevedo prevented any runs from scoring thanks to some nifty defensive work. Third baseman Addison Maruszak cleanly fielded a hard grounder to third and fired to first for out number 2. Then 9th place hitter Gordon Stevens swung and missed for strike 3, but the pitch got away from catcher Braulio Pardo. But Pardo got out of his squat quickly, and tossed home to the covering Quevedo, who applied the tag in time to get the out and save the run.
USF went quietly, going down 1-2-3 in its half of the inning.
UConn and USF are only a few minutes away from the first pitch here at Keyspan Park, and the stands are basically empty. UConn has a group of fans who are in the last few rows on the first base side, taking shade underneath the yellow and blue overhang. USF has a small smattering of fans behind the third base dugout, less than there were two nights ago - which was a much colder and later game.
Greg Nappo starts for UConn with a 3-3 record and a 4.03 ERA, while USF counters with Matt Quevedo, who is 4-2 with a 4.38 ERA. If USF wins, they will go to the Big East title game, but if UConn wins, these two teams will face off once more about an hour after Rutgers and Louisville finish their game.
Rutgers withstood three Louisville rallies to win 12-10 and force another game between the two teams later today at 5 pm.
There certainly wasn't a shortage of offense. After Rutgers took a 2-0 lead in the first, Louisville fought back with 3 runs of its own to grab the lead. Rutgers put up 3 more in the 5th before falling behind 6-5 when Louisville scored 1 in the 3rd and 2 in the 5th. After Rutgers put up 6 in the 7th and 1 in the 8th, Louisville answered back with 3 in the bottom half of the 8th. But they could not muster anything more, and Rutgers held on.
The Scarlet Knights managed to score 12 runs only 10 hits and committed an error, while the Cardinals scored 10 runs on 10 hits and committed 2 errors.
Our next game features UConn and USF, with the Huskies needing a win to stay alive. A victory for the Bulls would advance them to the championship game.
Stay with Touching the Bases for more Big East action.
Successive 2-out doubles by Chris Cates and Boomer Whiting cut the deficit from 5 runs to 3, chasing reliever Jason Downey from the game in favor of lefty Matt Patterson. He hit Logan Johnson and walked Daniel Burton to load the bases for Isaiah Howes before being relieved by Kevin Lillis.
Before Lillis could even throw a pitch to Howes, who came into the at-bat 2-3 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI, the reliever balked in a run, cutting the deficit to 2 and putting the tying runs in scoring position. Rutgers head coach Fred Hill was immediately out of the dugout to argue the call, but to no avail. Lillis ran the count full before getting Howes to look at a called strike to end the inning.
Todd Frazier just scored from second on a sacrifice fly to fairly deep center field. There weren't any errors or drops on the play, Frazier just kept running as soon as the ball was caught. Chris Cates was off balance as he made the relay throw from shallow center. Just another top-caliber play from one of the nation's best players.
With the beach packed and the fans enjoying the offensive outburst by Rutgers, about 6 military helicopters flew over the water beyond the right field fence, giving the fans here in the park a little bit more excitement. Not that they needed it.
Louisville went quietly in the bottom of the 7th, drawing only a 2-out walk.
There doesn't seem to be any quit in Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights have taken the lead back from the Cardinals.
Rutgers' first two hitters, Frazier and Bionde, reached base via a walk and a single. Third place hitter Ryan Hill then bunted back to the pitcher Meade, who had Frazier at third. But his throw went awry, scoring Frazier and advancing Bionde and Hill to 3rd and 2nd, respectively. Meade was lifted for Kyle Hollander, with Louisville clinging to a 1-run lead and 2 runners in scoring position and clean-up hitter Dave Williams at the plate.
But Hollander, who struck out 4 Rutgers hitters in 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief on Wednesday, could not stop the bleeding. Williams singled to right, scoring Bionde, and Tom Edwards grounded out slowly to second, scoring Hill to give Rutgers the lead. Hollander then hit Jon Gossard, before he was lifted for lefty Gavin Logsdon.
Logsdon got Tim Querns to ground into a fielder's choice, but Frank Meade Absolutely crushed a pitch over the double wall just left of center for a 3-run blast, and that home run must've traveled more than 400 feet. Donny Callahan - the 9th hitter of the inning for Rutgers - flied out to right, but the damage was done.
Louisville reliever Skylar Meade set down Rutgers in order to start the 6th, and then the Cardinals' bats went to work.
Chris Dominguez led off the bottom of the 6th with a single, then stole second uncontested. Pete Rodriguez bunted him to third, and Derrick Alfonso drove him home on a suicide squeeze. Pitcher Jon McCue air-mailed the throw to first, sending Alfonso to the second and chasing McCue from the game for reliever Jason Downey. Shortstop Chris Cates, the smallest player on the field at 5-3, bunted Alfonso to third, but he was stranded there.
Rutgers put a 3-spot on Louisville in the top half of the 5th and took the lead, but Louisville answered right back.
Big East Player of the Year Todd Frazier led off the 5th with a booming shot to left that cut the deficit in half. Colby Wark then set down the next two hitters before allowing back-to-back singles, with the runners advancing to 2nd and 3rd after Boomer Whiting was slow getting the ball in. Wark then uncorked a wild pitch to score one run, and catcher Derrick Alfonso's passed ball scored the other, giving Rutgers its 3rd run of the inning.
But the Cardinals would not go quietly. McCue then issued a 1-out walk to Logan Johnson. He fought back to strike out Daniel Burton, but Louisville left fielder Isaiah Howes would not let him get off easy. Howes absolutely crushed a pitch over the Cyclone roller coaster imitation on top of the scoreboard in left centerfield for a 2-run jack and his second homer of the game, which gave his team the lead back.
It was only a matter of time before The Beach Boys made an appearance in the blog. It continues to get warmer here at Keyspan Park, and of course, the key is to stay hydrated. The press box is stocked with water, an array of fruit juices and sodas, and of course, coffee, making staying hydrated easy.
And as I type that out and think to myself how the pitchers are settling into a groove, Louisville's Isaiah Howes crushed a 2-out pitch from Jon McCue over the left centerfield wall, just missing the scoreboard. The Cardinals' fans are definitely getting louder although they haven't really increased in number, and they're proving to be a worthy opponent of the screaming pro-Rutgers school kids.
It's almost as if I've seen two different games already. After a dismal first inning for both pitchers, Wark retired the side in order for the Cardinals, while McCue needed only 14 pitches to work around a 2-out walk and retire the side.
Meanwhile, the stands are still mostly empty, but the crowd is filling in nicely on this beautiful day. There is a large group of schoolchildren sitting between home plate and third base, with a clear pro-Rutgers bias. Their "Lets go Rutgers" chants have been a staple of the last inning and a half of play.
The name of the game for today's Rutgers/Louisville contest will not be pitching after a 35-minute, 64-pitch first inning.
It was a rough start to the game for Louisville. Starter Colby Wark could not find the strike zone - he only gave up 1 hit, but he walked 4 batters and threw a ball away on a pickoff attempt to first, and allowed 2 runs. It could've been worse for the Cardinals, but Wark was able to get 8th place hitter Frank Meade to look at strike 3 with the bases loaded. It was a 39-pitch inning for the Louisville starter.
Meanwhile, Rutgers' starter Jon McCue - 7-0 with a 1.70 ERA - did not fair any better. Three pitches into the game, the score was 2-1, as the first two Louisville hitters, Boomer Whiting and Logan Johnson, hit back-to-back doubles to cut the deficit in half. Then after McCue retired Louisville's 3 and 4 hitters, DH Jorge Castillo unloaded on a pitch and drove it over the left field wall to give his team the lead.
Touching the Bases is back at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn, New York, on this absolutely gorgeous Friday morning. The sun is shining, it's about 70 degrees, and the wind is blowing out to left as we get set for two, three or four games on Day 4.
It could be anywhere from 2 to 4 games because this is a double elimination tournament. The first game is Rutgers and Louisville, scheduled for a 10 am first pitch. The Cardinals are undefeated and need only one win to reach the championship game. The Scarlet Knights, however, already have lost - an 8-1 thrashing by the Cardinals on Wednesday - and must win to force a second game later today.
Our second game is scheduled to start at about 1 pm, and will feature the 8th-seeded Connecticut Huskies, fresh off a walkoff win over No. 1 seed St. John's last night, against the USF Bulls. If UConn is to continue its run here at the Big East tournament, it will need to win twice today, while USF needs only to win the 1 pm contest to get to the title game.
The only meeting between Rutgers and Louisville this year was Wednesday's game, while USF took 2 of 3 from Connecticut in Storrs March 30-April 1.
Stay here as Touching the Bases brings you all the action from Brooklyn.
The third home run of the season for Matt Untiet was by far his best - and most important - as the Huskies won their back and forth affair against St. John's in the bottom of the ninth, beating the Red Storm's Colin Lynch in the process.
It's become a back and forth affair lately at Keyspan and St. John's played along after losing the lead in the bottom of the seventh. The Red Storm promplty squared things up after Brian Kemp got on base, stole second and came around on a Deluca single to center in the top of the eighth. 7 14 0 St. John's, 7 11 1 UConn as we enter the bottom of the eighth.
A suicide squeeze later and trouble finding the strike zone means the Huskies have battled back to tie the score at 6 in the bottom of the seventh. And then there was only one out as Lynch couldn't find the plate as the bases quickly became loaded. The Huskies plated one on a groundout to third to take the lead for the first time this evening. It's afive run inning for UConn and the first blown save of the season for Lynch. St. John's bullpen is letting them down. At the end of seven it's 6 13 0 St. John's, 7 11 1 UConn and if you're looking for a St. John's comeback, don't count on it - the Red Storm are just 2-15 when trailing after the seventh inning.
Gordon Stevens just drove one to deep center for a two run triple that has brought the Huskies to within two runs again. It's 6-4 St. John's. That's going to bring on the Red Storm closer, Colin Lynch, in the pitching change as Gutsie exits and in comes with no outs and runners and first and third in the bottom of the seventh.
Two run double by Ryan Mahoney has just give the Red Storm a nice four run cushion. The left handed hitting DH sliced one down into the left field corner - a big two out hit for St. John's - Gutsie a little more margin for error as the game gets later and later. In the middle of the seventh, it's 6 13 0 St. John's and 2 9 1 UConn.
Donovan just launched a solo moon-shot over the leftfield scoreboard - similar to what Todd Frazier did in Rutgers win over Villanova earlier this afternoon - and all of the sudden the Huskies are right back in this game, trailing 4-2 as St. John's makes a pitching change. Justin Gutsie takes the mound for St. John's.
The Huskies took a bite out of St. John's lead, plating one run one a 6-6-3 double play in the bottom of the fifth. The Huskies have actually been hitting St. John's George Brown fairly well, but just haven't been able to capitalize on the opportunties they've had. 4 9 0 St. John's, 1 8 1 UConn after five.
Another call just went against UConn and it cost them a run again. Parkes came up firing from right field on a single by St. John's Anthony Smith to home plate. Larry Day, UConn's catcher, on a bang-bang play, hung on to the ball as the Red Storm runner barreled into him in a violent collision. But the home plate umpire, Scott Inman, called interference on the Huskies saying Day was too far into the basepath, not allowing access to home plate. Day was a few feet up the line, roughly around the edge of the right hand hitter's batter's box, but it wasn't a blatant blocking of the basepath, and he made a terrific play to hang onto the ball.
The umpires killed a potential UConn rally, making two calls that are still baffling those assembled in the press box.
Basically, the Huskies had runners on first and second and UConn coach Jim Penders called a double steal. Catcher Brad Olt was up and protected his teammates, swinging and missing. St. John's catcher Brendan Monaghan threw to second late and the Huskies seemed to have runners on second and third with one out. But the umpire called interference and sent both Olt and Untiet - who was on first - into the dugout after a lengthy discussion around the mound. With two outs, Josh Parkes bounced out to the shortstop and the Huskies were left empty handed at the end of the inning. 3 7 0 St. John's, 0 6 1 UConn after four full.
A big 4-6-3 double play kept St. John's off the board in the top of the fourth. It looked like St. John's was on the verge of blowing this one open, but Odenbach enduced the chopper up the middle that was handled by Brannon, who shoveled it off to Donovan and slinged it over to Untiet to get the Huskies out of the frame unscathed. 3 7 0 St. John's, 0 4 1 UConn at the end of three and a half.
Another single up the middle has plated another Johnnie as UConn's Odenbach has been getting hit in three short innings for the Huskies. St. John's leads 3-0 and Odenbach may not be in the game a whole lot longer - his pitch count is rapidly rising. 3 6 0 St. John's, 0 4 0 UConn at the end of two and a half.
It's another sparse crowd for Game 2 of the Big East Tournament. They didn't give an attedance figure for the first game, but it couldn't have been more than 250. The contest between Rutgers and Villanova was so slow, deliberate and uneventful that you could hear the waves crashing on the beach a few hundred yards over right and center field.
Afternoon has turned into evening here at Keyspan Park, with the lights just starting to really take effect and St. John's had something brewing in the top of the first, putting two on with one out. They would capitalize. Sam Deluca singled up the middle to plate Brian Kemp who led off the game with a double, 1-0 St. John's.
Thanks to the stab by 1B Mat Untiet, UConn nearly pulled off a 3-6-1 double play that would have ended the inning. But Odenbach couldn't get there in time to cover and the next batter, Chris Anninos, got an infield hit up the middle to give the Red Storm their second run of the inning. UConn SS Dennis Donovan couln't shovel the grounder to 2B Dale Brannon in time. 2 3 0 St. John's, UConn coming to bat.
Afternoon has turned into evening here at Keyspan Park, with the lights just starting to really take effect and St. John's had something brewing in the top of the first, putting two on with one out. They would capitalize. Sam Deluca singled up the middle to plate Brian Kemp who led off the game with a double, 1-0 St. John's.
Thanks to the stab by 1B Mat Untiet, UConn nearly pulled off a 3-6-1 double play that would have ended the inning. But Odenbach couldn't get there in time to cover and the next batter, Chris Anninos, got an infield hit up the middle to give the Red Storm their second run of the inning. UConn SS Dennis Donovan couln't shovel the grounder to 2B Dale Brannon in time. 2 3 0 St. John's, UConn coming to bat.
As St. John's gets ready for it's Big East Tournament matchup with UConn in Game 2 of the day's twinbill at Keyspan Park, the Red Storm know this game is a must win. They know there's a lot at stake in this one.
Rutgers wrapped up an 11-0 win over Villanova, dispatching the Wildcats from the Big East Tournament behind Todd Frazier, who tortured Nova's pitchers to the tune of three doubles and a home run. The only blemish for Frazier, who clearly showed he was the best player on the field, came on the WIldcats ninth hit of the game that he may have had a chance to make a play on, but a hard hit grounder in the hole glanced off his glove and into left field. It certainly didn't take away from what he did at the plate where he absolutely just punished Nova's pitchers.
Tood Frazier blew the game wide open, launching a home run over the scoreboard in left field - that went over the replica Cyclone rollercoaster that sits atop that very same scoreboard - to give Rutgers a 7-0 lead after the Scarlet Knights plated another one earlier in the frame. Frazier's shot was a blast that seemed to keep rising as it flew over the scoreboad, landing well into one of Coney Island's vacant and filth-laden lots.
Two batters late Ryan Hill launched a solo homer to right to make it 8-0 and just like that this game became a laugher. Eidell, who was actually worse than the man he replaced, Hoffman, was pulled in favor of Brian Streilein. Villanova better get their bats going soon. They've got only four innings left to make up what's becoming a larger deifict by the inning. At the end of five and a half, it's 8 13 0 Rutgers, 0 4 1 Villanova.
Great catch by Nova RF James Dolbier in the top of the 4th who reached out to rob Rutgers' Donny Callahan just before he crashed into the wall. Easily saved a double, potentially a triple, and probably a run as well, but it certainly wasn't a omen for the Wildcats. One batter later Todd Frazier doubled to left center with one out, promptly stole third base and scored on Mike Bionde's single to left that dunked in before Dolbier could get to it to make it 3-0 Rutgers. That brought on our first pitching change of the game as Hoffman was yanked in favor of Josh Eidell who would give up a two out RBI single to Edwards.
Line on Hoffman: 3.1 IP, 4 R, 7 H. It's 4 9 0 for Rutgers and 0 2 1 for Nova at the end of three and a half.
Our first runs of the day came courtesy of Rutgers as Hoffman finally got into a jam he couldn't get out of.
David Williams started things with a two out double that was followed by Tom Edwards hot shot up the middle that Hoffman was able to get his glove on. The only problem was the ball was hit so hard it took the leather right off Hoffman's hand and 2B Ryan Arcadia wasn't able to get to the ball fast enough to throw out Edwards who motored down to first.
Could there be something up with Nova pitcher Bill Hoffman? All of the sudden in the second inning, Hoffman looked to be frustrated as he had runners on first and second with two outs. A quick little meeting on the mound seemed to do the trick - four pitches later the Wildcats were out of another jam as Hoffman actually struck out the side. 0 2 0 for Rutgers and 0 1 0 for Nova as we head to the bottom of the second.
If it's possible to break your aluminum bat, Rutgers SS Todd Frazier did on a first inning double up the middle that somehow got by Nova CF Joe Cotter. There wasn't the usual ping when Frazier made contact, but rather a dull, wet sock against a wall type sound. Despite Bill Hoffman having a little trouble finding the strike zone so far for Nova, he wasn't hurt by it as the Scarlet Knights left two on and Hoffman got a called strike three to end the bottom of the first.
Day 3 of the Big East Tournament is about to get underway here at Keyspan Park in Coney Island in beautiful Brooklyn, N.Y. where the sun is warm, the boardwalk is busy and the crowd is sparse as Rutgers and Villanova get ready for the first of two games to be played today.
The theme of Day 2 was clearly pitching, as we saw probably 4 dominant pitching performances. It started with a pair of Villanova arms that held Notre Dame to only 2 runs, then a pair of Huskies that allowed only 2 Pittsburgh runs, then a trio of Louisville pitchers that held the Big East's best offense to only 1 run, and finally a pair of USF pitchers who shutout St. John's.
Two games will be played tomorrow, with both contests featuring teams that have 1 loss. The first game, at 4 pm, will see Rutgers take on Villanova, and the second game at 7 pm, will see St. John's take on Connecticut.
Interestingly enough, the 1 and 2 seeds could be eliminated tomorrow.
The winners of today's last 2 games - Louisville and USF - have the day off, and will play Friday at 10 am and 1 pm, respectively.
And Touching the Bases will be there to cover all the action as we move into day 3 of 5 at the Big East tournament in Brooklyn, New York.
USF's pitching - starter Chris Delaney and reliever Shawn Sanford - baffled St. John's hitters all night long, holding the Red Storm to a mere 3 hits in a 2-0 victory.
St. John's did have 9 base runners, thanks to 3 walks and 3 hit batsmen, but timely pitching from the Bulls' pair of arms prevented St. John's from doing any further damage. They had a runner in scoring position with less than 2 outs twice in the game but could not push a single run across. Catcher Brendan Monaghan had 2 hits for the Red Storm and Jeff Grantham had a hit and reached base 3 times after being plunked twice. Gil Zayas was 0-4.
USF's runs came in the 1st and 8th.
The Bulls get the day off and will play at 1 pm on Friday, while the Red Storm face UConn tomorrow with their tournament life at stake.
Three outs left for each team and, and the deficit has doubled for St. John's.
A little more controversy in the top of the 8th - the first pitch to St. John's 3B Gil Zayas was called a strike, and the Red Storm faithful were on plate ump Don January once more. But this time they seemed right. From up here, the pitch looked outside and low, but January ruled that it was a strike. St. John's third base coach Mike Hampton was absolutely livid, and nearly got tossed by January. Both Hampton and Zayas had to be calmed by head coach Ed Blankmeyer. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that lit a fire under the rest of the St. John's squad, as USF reliever Shawn Sanford set them down in order. St. John's only has one more turn at bat to climb out of this hole, and its 6, 7 and 8 hitters are due up.
USF put a runner in scoring position with 1 out or less for the third consecutive inning, but this time it paid off as the Bulls scored their first run since the game's first inning. Dexter Butler's base hit up the middle scored Mike Consolmagno from second after Ty Taborelli had bunted him to second base. St. John's escaped after a double play, but they've only mustered 2 hits all game, and now need 2 runs to tie.
It's stretch time for the final time on Day 2 here at Keyspan Park, and the top half of the 7th produced about as much action as the rest of the game combined.
St. John's catcher Brendan Monaghan - who seems to be at the heart of everything that's happened thus far this evening - led off the inning with a double, the second hit of the game for St. John's. He advanced to 3rd on a sacrifice fly to left, and then shortstop Jeff Grantham was hit for the second time in the game by Delaney, causing plate umpire Don January to warn both benches.
Delaney was then lifted and replaced by Shawn Sanford, who calmly induced leadoff hitter Brian Kemp to pop out to the first baseman in foul territory for the second out. He then got Chris Joachim to chase a nasty pitch that tailed away from him to retire the side.
All the while, St. John's fans have been none too pleased with January's work this game. Every pitch, the Red Storm faithful clamor for the opposite call if it would favor their team. January, however, has had none of it, sticking to his guns and calling his game. From the press box, he seems to be consistent and fair in his umpiring, and his strike zone hasn't really changed throughout the game.
We're halfway home here at Keyspan Park, and I've just gotten the most important news of the evening - Jordin Sparks has won American Idol, proving that everything with the world is right.
And just as I'm typing that, St. John's 9th place hitter Jeff Grantham was plunked on the head with a pitch. His helmet flew off and he sat down on the ground, but got up and jogged to first after a couple of minutes, rising to a large ovation from the St. John's faithful.
The Red Storm now have a runner on 1st with 1 out and the top of the lineup coming up, and after leadoff hitter Brian Kemp was nicked with a Delaney fastball there are 2 on with 1 out and St. John's has its best shot to tie the ballgame. But Chris Joachim grounded out to second and Sam Deluca popped out to left and the Red Storm strand 2 in scoring position.
There are great pitching duels, and then there are uneventful ones, and this game certainly falls under the latter category.
USF starter Chris Delaney has allowed only 1 hit through 4 innings and walked 3. He put 2 men on via the walk with 2 outs in the top of the 4th and ran the count full on St. John's 7th place hitter Brendan Monaghan, but he popped up to right to end the threat. St. John's starter, Jared Yecker, hasn't pitched too poorly himself. Yecker has allowed only 1 run on 2 hits, 2 walks and 1 hit batsman.
Other than the play at the plate back in the first, there's been a whole lot of nothing. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this game has been the complete shift in wind patterns, as now the American flag just right of center is blowing out to left. It's still not warm, but it's definitely better than it was last game.
The wind is no longer whipping through the press box, which is making this last game much more enjoyable. Papers are staying put, and while I wouldn't say it's warm, the cold is definitely more manageable than if it were constantly windy. The wind has changed direction, blowing a little more out and toward left rather than in from right.
Furthermore, while the stands are pretty much empty, I'm still impressed with the number of people who have showed up. St. John's of course has a fairly decent fan base, given its close proximity to Keyspan Park. But there's a small enclave of USF fans sitting behind the third base dugout. They're all sitting together, most likely for warmth. Someone in the press box earlier today asked what the rule was on starting bon fires to keep warm, and the idea of a garbage can fire was raised, but quickly squashed.
With runners on first and second and 2 outs in the bottom of the 1st, USF third baseman Addison Maruszak doubled in the left centerfield gap. Walter Diaz on second scored, but Dexter Butler, the runner from first, was thrown out after Red Storm left fielder Brian Kemp relayed to shortstop Jeff Grantham, who gunned down the runner at the plate. St. John's catcher Brendan Monaghan seemed to apply a high tag, however, and Butler took offense. Monaghan and Butler exchanged words before each team's respective coaches broke up the conversation.
I'm sure that'll set the tone for a hard fought game between two very solid teams. These two teams met during the final weekend of the regular season, with the Red Storm taking the first 2 games 12-8 and 7-3 before dropping the third game 5-2. I'm sure USF would like to exact some measure of revenge.
The final game of the evening is South Florida vs. St. John's. The Bulls are here by virtue of their 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh yesterday, and the Red Storm are here thanks to their 2-1 victory over UConn last night.
The pitching matchup will be: Chris Delaney, 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA for USF, versus Jared Yecker, 7-3 with a 3.22 ERA for St. John's.
This game also features two of the longer last names in the conference, with the Bulls starting LF Mike Consolmagno and RF Joey Angelberger. It's a good thing that they play the corner outfield positions, and neither of them is the centerfielder, because that could be an announcer's worst nightmare.
More on the lights- each light pole has a set of standard lights at the top, but those are surrounded by a circular ring of neon lights. The colors range from blue to green to red to orange. It's a pretty interesting set up.
And one last note - it appears as though the Internet connection, which troubled us at the beginning of the day, is having fits again. If it goes out during the game, it'll be difficult to bring you the action, but I will have a recap post by night's end.
Louisville's pitchers completely dominated Rutgers' bats, holding the Scarlet Knights scoreless over the final 8 innings for an 8-1 victory.
Justin Marks allowed 3 hits and a run in the 1st inning but settled down, going 6 innings in earning his 7th win of the year. He turned it over to the bullpen, which nailed down the final 3 innings. Kyle Hollander pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings before loading the bases, but Trystan Magnuson came in and struck out pinch-hitter Donny Callahan and Big East player of the year Todd Frazier to nail down the victory. The trio of Cardinal pitchers allowed only 5 hits throughout the game, and only 2 over the contest's final 8 frames.
Rutgers' offense was practically nonexistent. Frazier singled and scored in the 1st, but finished the game only 1-5. David Williams was 1-4, and Tom Edwards was 0-3 with a walk.
Louisville's offense exploded, scoring single runs in the 1st and 4th and putting a 3 spot up in the 6th and 9th. Boomer Whiting went 1-3 with a 2-run home run, but reached base 4 times and scored twice. Whiting was practically unstoppable on the basepaths, swiping 4 bags after being caught stealing third back in the first. Daniel Burton also scored twice for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have the day off, and Rutgers plays Villanova tomorrow at 4 pm.
The final game of the day will be USF vs. St. John's, with the first pitch coming at 8:46. The game will be played under the lights - which include bright neon lights - here at Keyspan Park. Keep it with Touching the Bases for all the action as Day 2 of the Big East Tournament comes to its conclusion.
With what seemed like a 3-1 count and 1 out on Louisville 1B Daniel Burton, Chris Lillis kicked and fired. The pitch was swung on and missed for strike 2. But Burton walked off like it was strike 3. The plate umpire called him back, but Rutgers coach Fred Hill came out to argue. The umpires convened, and ruled Burton out on strike 3. Of course, a counter-argument ensued, but to no avail. Burton was out, even though Louisville's radio broadcaster and numerous other press box inhabitants had the pitch swung on and missed for strike 2.
Regardless, Louisville has added 3 more runs. A single by Isaiah Howes drove in Boomer Whiting, then after a single by DH Jorge Castillo, Chris Dominguez doubled off the left-centerfield wall.
Kyle Hollander has come into the game and simply been dominant. He's faced 6 batters and retired all 6, striking out 4. Rutgers is down to its final 3 outs, and if the Scarlet Knights cannot come back, they will find themselves one loss away from being eliminated.
Third 7th inning stretch here at Keyspan Park and Louisville still leads Rutgers 5-1. The winner of this game gets tomorrow off and will play Friday at 10 am. The loser, however, will play Villanova tomorrow at 4 pm, with the loser of that game going home.
Rutgers is more than capable of turning this game around, as long as the pitchers can keep the margin where it is. Todd Frazier and Co. have a lot of pop in their bats, so you can't count them out yet. But with only 9 outs to go, they're running out of time. Luckily for them, Justin Marks' day is done. He has been relieved by Kyle Hollander.
Stay right here with Touching the Bases to see if the Scarlet Knights can turn it around, now that Marks - 6 IP, 5 hits, 1 run - is out of the ballgame.
The wind continues to whip through the press box here, making it much colder. I can only imagine what it will be like once the sun completely goes down and night falls. I'm also curious to see how many people show up for tonight's game between USF and St. John's. And I also wonder if USF's players will put on long sleeves - actually, do they even own long sleeves?
Meanwhile, things are getting cold for Casey Gaynor and Rutgers, as the young righty has allowed 3 runs with two outs and has been chased from the game, the shortest outing for any starting pitcher all day. A wild pitch advanced Chris Dominquez to third, and that allowed him to score on Chris Cates' single to shallow right. Boomer Whiting then unloaded on a pitch for a 2-run blast to left to make the score 5-1 in favor of the Cardinals. Reliever Matt Patterson came in to strike out Logan Johnson for the last out in the top of the 6th.
Louisville's freshman left-hander Justin Marks seems to have hit his stride, which isn't a good sign for the Scarlet Knights. Since allowing 3 hits and a run in the 1st, he has scattered 2 hits and shut out Rutgers over the last 4 innings. Marks has struck out only 2 batters all game, but he seems to be locating his pitches extremely well, making it difficult for the Rutgers hitters. Marks has also induced 8 fly ball outs, versus 3 groundball outs, over the last 4 innings.
Just as it seemed like Casey Gaynor had settled in, retiring 6 of the last 7 batters to face him and only allowing a single over that stretch, the Louisville bats struck back. Daniel Burton led off the 4th with a hot smash to left that just stayed fair as it cleared the fence, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Louisville then loaded the bases with an error, a single and a walk before Gaynor got Louisville's 9th place hitter Chris Cates to fly out to right.
There's definitely a bigger crowd for this contest than there was for the last one, largely due to the contingency of Rutgers fans sitting behind the third base dugout. Louisville has a few fans along the first base line, but the Rutgers crowd is probably between 100 and 200 strong, and they clearly overpower the Louisville supporters.
Meanwhile, the wind continues to wreak havoc with pop-ups and press box papers. Louisville's broadcaster started his broadcast by saying how Cyclones - the name of the team that plays its games here at Keyspan Park - refers to the roller coaster visible over the left field wall, but that right now it could refer to the near constant gusts of wind.
Some nifty glove work by Rutgers first baseman Tom Edwards turns a line-drive double play, and the Scarlet Knights go in order after a leadoff single.
The Cardinals put the first two men on by way of a double and a walk before Boomer Whiting - the nation's leader in steals with 64 regular season swipes - was caught stealing third by catcher Frank Meade. After a fielder's choice, it looked like Gaynor would get through the inning, but Isaiah Howes' 2-out double put the Cardinals up 1-0.
But before Louisville could even blink, Rutgers had tied the ballgame. A single by Frazier, a walk by Mike Bionde, and a single by Ryan Hill - on the 14th pitch of the at-bat - and all of a sudden the score was 1-1. Bionde was picked off 3rd after a failed delayed double-steal for the first out. The Cardinals did get out of the inning, however, after a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play on a questionable called third strike.
We're almost under way here at Keyspan Park for game 3 of 4. This should be a great game, with Rutgers - led by Big East player of the year Todd Frazier - facing off against Louisville. The Cardinals will send Big East freshman of the year Justin Marks to the mound with his 6-2 record and 2.51 ERA. Rutgers counters with freshman Casey Gaynor, who comes into the matchup at 4-2 with a 4.34 ERA.
Touching the Bases will keep you updated throughout this one.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Connecticut closer Matt Karl dug deep. Really deep.
After Karl allowed two walks and a base hit to lead off the top of the 9th, he induced a fielder's choice groundout that got the runner at home, a strikeout, and a soft liner to second to retire the side and preserve the 5-2 win for the Huskies. It was the second consecutive inning in which Pitt loaded the bases but couldn't get any runs across. The Panthers left 10 runners on base, which essentially cost them the game. Now, Pitt joins Notre Dame as the second team eliminated from the Big East tournament.
Rob Brant went 8 innings and struck out 6 for the Panthers, and Mike Tarsi went 8 and struck out 7 for UConn to get the win, while Karl held on for the save. The Panthers out-hit the Huskies 12-8, but they also committed 4 errors.
The next game features Louisville, the number 3 seed in the tournament, against Rutgers, the number 2 seed. Both teams won last night, with the Cardinals topping Villanova 3-1 and the Scarlet Knights dominating Notre Dame 13-2.
Pitt loaded the bases with 2 outs in the top of the 8th, but CF Jordan Herr went first-pitch swinging and grounded the ball to Huskies' third baseman Pat Mahoney, who stepped on third to retire the side. Pitt is down to its final 3 outs, and if it can't come back, Pitt will be going home.
As the breeze becomes more of a strong wind, I can't help but think that this resembles football weather more than baseball weather. The American flag just to the right of centerfield has been blowing in from right - which is of course in front of the ocean - since about midway through last game. The Atlantic waters have also become increasingly more choppy, perhaps signaling we might get some bad weather, although there isn't really a cloud in the sky.
And in case you were wondering, if they wanted to play football, they could fit the field in Keyspan Park. It's 412 to straight away center, and of course the field is wide enough.
Pittsburgh hadn't had a runner past 2nd base in the game's first 5 innings, but the Panthers aren't going to go down without a fight. They touched up UConn starter Mike Tarsi for 2 runs on 3 hits to cut the deficit to 3. Pitt catcher Nick Mullins got a hold of a ball and hit it to left, but it stayed in the park for a long sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile, a foul ball came back to the press box and as I'm getting out of my chair to retrieve it, Dick Groat is up with the ball and ready to fire to first. Well, not quite, but he beat me to it.
UConn's 9th place hitter Gordon Stevens laid down a suicide squeeze with runners on 2nd and 3rd, and Pitt pitcher Rob Brant threw home, but the ball bounced off the runner and hopped to the backstop, allowing both runners to score.
By the way, the two-man Pitt booth to my left consists of Steelers' broadcaster Bill Hillgrove and former Duke basketball great and Pittsburgh Pirates all-star Dick Groat. Talk about star power.
Connecticut has increased its lead to 3-0 thanks to a 2-out, 2-run shot by the Huskies' senior captain Dennis Donovan. He has paced UConn all season long, leading the team in average, homers, and RBI. Donovan's shot was absolutely crushed, just to the right of the bull's eye that Villanova's Jim Gillin came close to last game. A little higher, and a little more toward the line, and Donovan might have a brand new Volvo, minus the whole amateur athlete status thing.
Big East: Broadcasters, Ballplayers, and a Baseball Game
The press box here at Keyspan Park is filled with an interesting chorus. Only a few feet to my left is Pittsburgh's radio tandem, and just below them is one of UConn's two radio contingencies, a one-man booth. Listening to both of them at once is quite interesting. Plus, the sparse crowd allows me to hear a lot of the chatter from the ballplayers on the field. The trio of voices - Pitt radio, UConn radio, and ballplayers - certainly makes for interesting listening.
As for the game itself, the Huskies are on top. A walk, a hit batsman, and a base hit in the bottom of the first plated a run for UConn, and both teams have only one hit apiece through 2 innings. Something tells me, however, that those totals will be higher as the game moves on. Pitt starter Rob Brant allowed 99 hits in 80 2/3 regular season innings, while UConn starter Mike Tarsi allowed 75 hits in 78 innings of regular season work.
As we await the start of game 2, they've rolled out the lunch platter here in the press box, and let me tell you, I am wholly satisfied. I looked behind me in the middle of the 8th and the food area - which earlier contained bagels and spread - was empty. But as I looked behind me again after the 9th, lunch had arrived - wraps, salads, cookies. You name it, they have it. Now that my appetite has been satisfied, I'm ready for Pitt and UConn.
A couple of other notes- the breeze has picked up, making it a bit cold, so I had to grab a jacket to keep warm. And the stadium has all but emptied out, just like yesterday. The throng of schoolchildren is gone, so I'm sure the crowd will be significantly quieter for this next game.
Anyway, I still can't get over Josh Eidell's kick-save play in the 8th to preserve the lead for Villanova and help them to victory. But that game is history. So lets move on.
For the first time since 2001, the Big East champion will not be Notre Dame. And Villanova, in search of its first championship since 1991, will live another game.
Notre Dame starter David Phelps went the distance, allowing only 3 runs on 5 hits while striking out 8, but the Irish bats were stymied all day long by the arms - and legs - of Villanova's pitchers. The Wildcat combo of Jordon Ellis (who gets the win) and Josh Eidell (the save) allowed only 2 runs on 5 hits.
Jim Gillin's solo home run to lead off the 4th proves to be the game-winner. Perhaps Gillin - whose name is similar to that of Jim Gilliam, who patrolled second base in Brooklyn for 5 seasons - channeled some of that Brooklyn mystique to propel his team forward.
OK, maybe that's a stretch. But still, the Wildcats win 3-2.
Stay tuned as Touching the Bases brings you coverage of the rest of today's Big East games. Next up, in the second elimination game of the day, Pittsburgh will face UConn.
The Irish just wasted a golden opportunity to at least tie the ballgame. Villanova starter Jordon Ellis walked the first two batters of the inning before giving way to reliever Josh Eidell, who then essentially saved the game for 'Nova. Eidell gave up a sac bunt to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, but then got the next hitter to pop out. And with two away, Notre Dame LF Matt Brezovsky hit a hard grounder up the middle that was ticketed for centerfield and had 4-3 Irish written all over it. But Eidell stuck out his foot to knock the ball toward first. He then picked up the ball and flipped to first, in time to get the runner and retire the side.
We head to the 9th, with Villanova still hanging in to a 3-2 lead and the Irish down to their final 3 outs, and last chance to stay in the hunt for their 6th consecutive Big East title.
It's stretch time here at Keyspan Park with the score still 3-2 in favor of Villanova. Notre Dame pitcher David Phelps has struck out 8 Wildcat hitters, but his throwing error nearly cost his team another run. Phelps threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt, allowing the runner to go to second. However, nifty defensive work by the Notre Dame shortstop saved a run. On a groundball deep in the hole and to his right, shortstop Brett Lilley fielded the ball cleanly and threw ahead of the advancing runner to gun him down for the second out. The next batter doubled, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd, but no runs scored.
We also had an impromptu military flyby with 1 out and Villanova at the plate, when what appeared to be 2 military helicopters flanked by 2 regular helicopters flew over the beach beyond the right field fence. The crowd was excited by this unexpected occurrence, and should get even more enjoyment out of the final 2.5 innings of this game.
Top half of the 4th inning, and Villanova catcher Jim Gillin crushed a pitch to left field that cleared the fence with room to spare. Had he hit it higher and a little bit more toward left-center, the ball would've hit the bull's eye perched on a light pole and Gillin would've had a new car. Or would he? I'm sure that would violate every NCAA rule known to mankind. Regardless, that puts the Wildcats up 3-0.
In the bottom half of the inning, Notre Dame finally broke through for its first hit of the ballgame, a 1-out bunt single by CF Danny Dressman who just beat out a flip from the first baseman to the pitcher covering. Villanova pitcher Jordon Ellis then walked the next hitter and allowed a 2-run double, putting the Irish - winners of 5 straight Big East titles - back in the ballgame.
As Villanova and Notre Dame settle in here in game 1 of 4, it's worth mentioning that today might be the perfect day for baseball. It's about 65 degrees, with a slight breeze blowing in from the water. The sun is shining and the sky is pretty clear.
The crowd of mostly schoolchildren seems to be enjoying the action as well. They've taken to cheering for the batter rather than the pitcher, hoping for the offense we saw in the top of the 1st. But they did enjoy hearing NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" over the PA system when Villanova centerfielder Joe Cotter struck out looking to lead off the second.
But back to the action, we just had our first great defensive play, with Notre Dame pitcher David Phelps coming off the mound to his right and throwing out the runner from his knees.
Both Villanova and Notre Dame are fighting for their tournament lives here, having lost their respective games yesterday.
The Wildcats have come out playing with a sense of urgency, using two doubles and an error to score 2 runs in the top half of the first. However, they left the bases loaded, with Gus Guida striking out to end the threat.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame leadoff hitter reached base by way of the hit-by-pitch. It should be noted that Lilley was hit for the 78th time in his career - fourth all-time in NCAA history, and he's only a junior. However, he was stranded at third when Matt Weglarz struck out looking.
Well after some technical difficulties have been sorted out, Touching the Bases is online and ready to bring you all the action from the Big East baseball tournament here at Keyspan Park in Brooklyn.
Day 2 features a slate of four games: Villanova at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh at UConn, Louisville at Rutgers, and St. John's at USF.
Interestingly enough, the first three games feature matchups between teams that haven't played this season, while the Johnnies took a series 2-1 from USF during the final weekend of regular season play.
This is it, folks. A brilliant diving catch by Gordon Stevens in center field to rob Chris Joachim of his third hit of the night prevented the Johnnies from padding their lead in the bottom of the eighth, but the Huskies come to the plate in the ninth needing a run to keep this one going. Colin Lynch will try to make sure that doesn't happen.
As we stretch in Brooklyn - having switched back to organ music instead of the Harry Caray recording - I can't help but noticed the effect a sparsely populated park has on that favorite fan activity, the pursuit of foul balls.
This, my friends, is the beauty of college baseball. The game that figured to be the most lopsided may well be the most tightly contested. Given what we've seen today, that would be saying something. You just never know where the great game is going to come from.
OK folks, here we go with our last game of the day. It's No. 1 seed St. John's and No. 8 seed UConn. The winner gets USF tomorrow for a ticket to the group finals, while the loser gets an elimination game against Pitt.
The teams are ready, the infield is being watered down...it's just about that time, folks.
USF advances, having advanced Angelberger on a groundout to the pitcher, and then bringing him home on a throwing error by Pitt second baseman Brian Muldowney. The Panthers went down in order in the ninth, and now, they'll play early tomorrow against the loser of our final game of the day, which pits UConn against top seed St. John's.
That game starts at 8 p.m., and I'll be right back here with you for all the action between the Red Storm and the Huskies.
We're in the top of the ninth, and we're headed for anotther tight finish, our second of the day after this morning's beauty of a game between Louisville and Villanova. It's 1-1 through eight, which means we're in store for some ninth-inning heroics, or some more innings.
The Bulls have a runner on second with one out in Joey Angelberger, and the Panthers are making a pitching change, bringing in Kyle Landis to relieve Paul Nardozzi after an admirable performance by the senior.
The Panthers and Bulls are tied once again, as Peter Parise doubled home Brian Muldowney in the bottom of the sixth. Another good inning for Nardozzi, and we're tied 1-1 at the stretch. Sing it, Harry!
The Panthers haven't exactly made it easy on themselves today, with four errors thus far, the most recent of which left Pitt to deal with a runner on third and one out. However, Paul Nardozzi got his team out of trouble when Nick Cardieri's bunt turned into a a low pop. The senior from Victor, N.Y. - which is a suburb of Rochester, by the way, and not anywhere near here - dove to catch the ball, came out of his roll, and threw to third to double up the runner, who had figured himself home free.
We have our first run of the game, and it goes to the Bulls. It wasn't exactly pretty - Nick Cardieri singled, was advanced on a sac bunt, got to third on an error, and scored on a passed ball - but it counts just the same, and the Bulls have the lead.
We're through three innings here at Keyspan Park, and there really isn't much to speak of. A hit on each side, a couple of errors, but we are still scoreless, and there hasn't been much of a threat in either direction.
Things have definitely settled into a lull, and this was the game to do it in.
Hello again from Keyspan Park, everyone, as it's time for the third game of the 2007 Big East tournament. The No. 5 seed, the USF Bulls, are set to take on the No. 4 seed, the Pitt Panthers.
Oh, and in case you were wondering about the end of our last game, everything that happened after the score went to 13-2 has been declared null and void. Somehow, I doubt Frank Meade feels like his being hit by a pitch is null and void, but such is life. Let's move on to Pitt and USF.
Four straight singles and a double opened the bottom of the eighth for the Scarlet Knights, putting them up 13-2. One would think that would trigger the 10-run mercy rule used by the Big East, but the teams played on for two more batters, which brought one more run to the plate for the Knights. As a result, the game's over a little later than it should have been, but the result is the same: Rutgers moves on to face Louisville, and the Irish put their season on the line tomorrow against Villanova.
Well, the Irish finally got out of the inning - Jon Gossard grounded out to second in his second plate appearance of the inning, but the damage has been done: seven runs on six hits have the Irish in a 9-2 hole, and their 1-2-3 seventh inning didn't help much.
Cool bit for the stretch here at Keyspan - the version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is a recording of the late, great Harry Caray. I guess the Irish could use some Chicago-area love, given what's going on here in Brooklyn.
It's very early here at the Big East tournament, but it's fair to say that we won't see a run scored in much stranger fashion than the runs that Rutgers scored to take a 7-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
You ever heard that old saying that starts, "For want of a nail a shoe was lost/for want of a shoe, a horse was lost," and goes on from there?
IT looked as if Rutgers coach Fred Hill might feel that way for a bit, as Notre Dame took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third, but the Scarlet Knights have charged ringht back to tie it at two runs a piece in the bottom of the inning.
As we get going with our second game today here at Keyspan Park - pitting No. 2 seed Rutgers against No. 7 seed Notre Dame - it's noticable more empty here than it was for the early game this morning. Since Rutgers would figure to generate more local interest than would this morning's teams, as would Notre Dame (c'mon, they're Notre Dame), you'd figure that there would be more people here, not less.
Well, I'm off the hook, as it's now a tie ballgame, 1-1.
Matt McFolling, who lost track of the RBI single for the Wildcats, is also somewhat off the hook, as the Wildcats' run-scorer Justin Bencsko, was pinch-running for McFolling, who drew a leadoff walk to open the ninth.
Bencsko was bunted to second by Derek Shunk, then came home on a single by Dan Terpak.
It's 1-1 as we head to the bottom of the ninth here in Brooklyn.
Lest I be accused of any kind of bias for not starting the no-hitter talk until after Zack Pitts was out of the game, let me keep my bases - not to mention something else - covered by mentioning that the Cardinals staff still has a no-hitter going.
Mike Loree is going to kill me. Villanova head coachJoe Godri is going to kill me. Hell, my CSTV.com colleague and defender of all things Philadelphia, Bryan Armen Graham, is probably going to kill me.
Cardinals designated hitter Jorge Castillo singled to left to open the bottom of the eighth, and Loree's no-hitter bid is over.
His shutout hopes have just joined it.
This is exactly why you don't talk about no-hitters, and I did.
It's stretch time in Brooklyn, and Louisville starter Zack Pitts is done for the day. It was probably time - he just hit the Wildcats' Jim Gillin, and he's been having some control problems - but it's still a tough call for Cardinals coach Dan McDonnell, since the junior from Elizabethtown, Ky., had yet to allow a hit when he left the ballgame.
Louisville shortstop Chris Cates is the shortest player in collegiate baseball. At 5'3", he's probably not much taller than some of the schoolkids who are dancing in the stands in the middle of the fifth inning.
However, the little Cardinal just came up very, very big.
At the end of the second, it's a scoreless ballgame, with a Pitts Walk accounting for the only baseruner of the day, and a flying bat the Chris Dominguez lost at the end of the last at-bat generating the most on-field excitement.
Not to say that there aren't still plenty of great seats available here at Keyspan Park, but this really is a nice atmosphere, thanks in large part to the school groups that have been brought to the ballpark for today's action.
Good morning from Keyspan Park in Brooklyn, where we are just underway with the 2007 Big East tournament. In our first game this morning, the Villanova Wildcats take on the Cardinals - not the Redbirds, as our public address announcer mistakenly introduced them - of the University of Louisville. Zack Pitts is on the mound for the Cardinals, and a beautiful day for baseball is upon us.
Eight Big East baseball teams will descend on Keyspan Park in Brooklyn, New York, home of the Class-A Mets affiliate Brooklyn Cyclones, for the Big East baseball tournament. It is a double elimination tournament, and the winner will get the Big East's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Last year's winner was Notre Dame, who comes back this year as the 7 seed.
For those of you who don't know a whole lot about Big East baseball, I've written a little about each of the 8 teams that will compete in the tournament, listed in order of their seed.