After all that talk about whether St. John’s would get to host a regional, the Red Storm went and let the Division I Baseball Committee off the hook.
St. John’s was eliminated from the Big East tournament in a 12-6 loss to Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Johnnies went 0-2 in the tournament, losing by a combined 24-6 score in two games against Villanova and Seton Hall. St. John’s started soft-tossing veteran Matt Tosoni in yesterday’s blowout, but today they came back with their ace, lefthander Scott Barnes. He carried a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning, when the Pirates exploded for nine runs (three against Barnes) on five hits and three errors.
So St. John’s is the first team eliminated in the Big East, and its regional hosting ambitions are likely out the window as well. The Red Storm didn’t necessarily need to win the Big East tournament to host, but it needed a solid showing to pad a resume that includes precious few wins against likely regional teams.
The team that could benefit most from this is Michigan. If the committee wanted to put one regional in a Northern market but didn’t feel quite comfortable with two up there, then the Red Storm’s exit opens the door wide for Michigan. The Wolverines simply must avoid St. John’s fate in their own conference tournament.
St. John’s early exit is bad news for bubble teams like Baylor, Clemson, UCLA and Arkansas, because it means the Big East will be at least a two-bid league. Had the Red Storm won the conference tournament, it might have secured the league’s only regional berth, opening up one more at-large spot for a bubble-dweller. But the Johnnies are certain to snag an at-large bid.
Elsewhere today, North Carolina State’s hosting chances took a significant blow, as the Wolfpack dropped a sloppy 10-9 game against fellow would-be host Georgia Tech. The ‘Pack led 9-8 heading into the ninth but opened the inning with three consecutive errors to allow the tying run to score and set up the winning run. It was the first meeting of the year between the two hosting candidates, and that head-to-head result might wind up being the tie-breaker.
In the Big 12, Missouri continued its recent mastery over Texas with a 3-2 win in 10 innings. Lefthander Rick Zagone started and pitched into the eighth for Missouri, but the Tigers went to righty Kyle Gibson to pitch the final 2 2/3 innings. He allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out four to pick up the win. Gibson was a key member of Missouri’s bullpen a year ago but has started 12 of his 16 appearances this year. Missouri’s bullpen has been its glaring weakness all season, though, and moving him back there to stabilize things might be a stroke of brilliance. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings in two relief appearances against Nebraska last week, and he came up huge again today.
One final note for now: Pepperdine righthander Brett Hunter, who threw returned from his long layoff to face two batters over the weekend against Santa Clara, started Tuesday for the Waves, throwing 68 pitches over 1 2/3 innings. He allowed four runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks while striking out one. We hope to have more on Hunter’s return later on the Draft Blog.
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