MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.–It took a while thanks to a 54-minute rain delay and a 44-minute lightning delay, but the St. John’s-Virginia Commonwealth game was worth the wait. With reliever Ryan Cole cruising along, St. John’s carried a 4-3 lead into the top of the ninth, but VCU third baseman Chris Jackson led off the inning with a solo homer. It looked like the Rams were going to take the lead, as they put runners on first and second with one out and executed what appeared to be a flawless hit and run. But St. John’s second baseman Sam DeLuca was breaking toward second base on the play, so he was in position to make a fantastic leaping catch on Richard Gonzalez’ soft liner up the middle. DeLuca stepped on second base for an inning-ending double play.
VCU coach Paul Keyes later said that play drained the Rams, and it energized the Johnnies. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Red Storm center fielder Chris Anninos jumped on Luke Pisker’s hanging slider and drove it over the left-field scoreboard for a walk-off home run. It was the second home run of the game for Anninos, who crushed a two-run shot to left back in the second. The sizzling Anninos is 8-for-17 with seven RBIs in the Red Storm’s five postseason games, counting the Big East tournament.
“We couldn’t get their guy out all day long,” Keyes said of Anninos. “And we missed one up, hung a slider, and he jumped on it.”
The big shift might have come in the eighth-inning, during the lightning delay.
“After the last rain delay, the wind started kicking out, so I knew something was going to happen,” St. John’s coach Ed Blankmeyer said.
There was some symmetry to the ending for St. John’s, which was eliminated from the Big East tournament on a walk-off home run by Connecticut.
“That last game we lost to UConn was a walk-off, and I was the one standing under it, and it was a miserable feeling,” Anninos said. “Now I’m just ecstatic it was our side.”