CLEARWATER, Fla. – After overcoming an early three-run deficit, the University of Cincinnati allowed five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to fall to St. John's University 8-3 Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the 2011 BIG EAST Championship at Bright House Field.
St. John's batted around the lineup in the eighth, capped by a grand-slam home run from Red Storm right fielder Kevin Grove, to record a five-run inning that broke a 3-3 tie.
Red Storm shortstop Joe Panik led off the bottom of the eighth with a single to right field and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from 2B Matt Wessinger. UC starting pitcher Zach Isler (Union, Ky./Covington Catholic) intentionally walked Baltz to set up runners on first and second with one out. In the next at-bat, St. John's designated hitter Robert Case hit a single through the left side of the infield that allowed Panik to score and gave the Red Storm a 4-3 lead.
After St. John's 1B Paul Karmas chopped an infield single to third base, giving the Red Storm bases load with no outs, Isler was removed from the game in favor of sophomore right-hander Andrew Strenge (Yardley, Pa./Holy Ghost Prep).
Facing a 1-0 count with the bases loaded, Grove hit a line drive over the left-field wall to separate St. John's from the Bearcats 8-3. After walking the next batter, Strenge was removed in place of redshirt freshman LHP Jason Pascuzzi (Strongsville, Ohio/Strongsville), who got out of the eighth without allowing another run.
St. John's five-run eighth inning overshadowed Cincinnati's three-run comeback.
Trailing 3-0 in the fifth, sophomore outfielder Jake Proctor (Cincinnati, Ohio/Oak Hills) was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Junior catcher Jake Saylor (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) followed with a single to right field that put runners on first and second with no out. Freshman third baseman Matt Williams' (Mason, Ohio/Cincinnati Hills Christian) sacrifice bunt down the third-base line caused St. John's 3B Pat Talbut to sail a throw into the first-base stands, allowing Proctor to score and advancing runners to second and third with no outs. Junior second baseman Sam Vandenheuvel (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) then roped a two-run double to left-center field that tied the score 3-3.
Vandenheuvel batted 3-for-3 with 2 RBI to pace the UC offense, which ended the game with five hits.
The Red Storm took an early 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the first inning when St. John's shortstop Joe Panik hit a 3-0 pitch to left field for a sacrifice fly, scoring CF Jimmy Brennan from third base.
Three consecutive singles from St. John's loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. The ensuing batter, Red Storm left fielder Jeremy Baltz, hit a two-out single to left field that put Cincinnati behind 3-0.
Isler settled down after allowing two runs in the third. The sophomore retired the side in order over the next three innings to keep the Bearcats in the ball game. His string of consecutive batters retired ended at 11 when Grove hit a check-swing infield single to lead off the seventh. The 6-foot-5 righty retired the next three batters to get out of the seventh unharmed before the five-run eighth.
Cincinnati will play University of Louisville 10 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game. UofL lost to Pittsburgh 7-2 in the tournament's opening game.