St. John's holds on vs. Creighton to finish sweep of Big East championships
OMAHA, Neb. -- St. John's saw a five-run lead erased by a five-run seventh, but rallied back and held on to defeat Creighton 8-7, and win a conference-record eighth Big East tournament crown.
Zach Lauricella finished 2-for-5 with three RBI and Robert Wayman went 3-for-3 with two RBI to lead St. John's (39-14) to its 15th consecutive win, the program's longest winning streak since 1977. Matt Harris also went 1-for-3 with two RBI and Alex Caruso was 1-for-2 with three walks and two runs scored as the Red Storm won both the Big East regular-season and tournament crowns for the second time in program history (2012).
Starter Chris Kalica tossed 4.1 scoreless frames for a no-decision, while Joe Kuzia (3-1) earned the win in relief and Ryan McCormick picked up his first-career save. Ryan Fitzgerald and Kevin Connolly had two RBI apiece for Creighton (32-19)
After the Bluejays stranded a pair in the top of the third, St. John's loaded the bases with one out as part of a four-run bottom of the frame. Caruso set the table with a one-out walk before Wayman singled into left field and Michael Donadio worked a walk to load the bases. Lauricella then swung at the first pitch of his at-bat and cleared the bases with a three-run triple into the left-center gap. Harris followed with a sacrifice fly into center and the Red Storm led 4-0.
St. John's chased Jack Rogalla and extended its lead with a two-out run in the fifth. Robbie Knightes led off the inning with a single and Creighton went to the bullpen. Knightes moved to second on a Tyler Sanchez sacrifice bunt before Caruso made it a 5-0 ballgame with a two-out RBI single.
Creighton got into the Red Storm bullpen in the fifth, but was kept off the board. Kalica was lifted after issuing a one-out walk, but Matt Clancy entered and induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
The Bluejays loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but was again kept off the board. Harrison Crawford singled to lead off the inning before Gandy singled with one out and Connolly drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Clancy, however, got out of the inning with a fielder's choice.
Creighton, however, sent 11-men to the plate and took advantage of three hit batsmen as part of a five-run seventh inning. Daniel Woodrow started things with an infield single before St. John's went to the bullpen with a 2-0 count to Nicky Lopez. Thomas Hackimer entered and Lopez walked before Reagan Fowler was plunked to load the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, Fitzgerald grounded a two-run single up the middle before Gandy walked and Brett Murray made it 5-3 with an RBI groundout. Connolly followed with an RBI single before Kevin Lamb was plunked to load the bases and send St. John's to the bullpen. Kuzia then plunked Woodrow to force in a run and tie the game at 5-5 before a flyout ended the inning.
St. John's took the lead right back with a run in the bottom of the inning after Wayman set the table with a leadoff walk. Lauricella then singled with one out to set up runners on the corners before Harris gave the Red Storm a 6-5 lead with an RBI single.
After Kuzia worked a 1-2-3 eighth frame, St. John's rallied with two outs to add two crucial insurance runs in the bottom of the frame. Troy Dixon started things with a two-out single before pinch runner Ty Blankmeyer stole second base. Caruso was then intentionally walked before Wayman gave St. John's an 8-5 lead with a two-run double into right center.
Creighton cut the deficit with two runs in the ninth, but St. John's held on for the win. Gandy and Landon Lucansky led off with back-to-back singles before a wild pitch gave the Bluejays runners on second and third with no outs. McCormick entered and was greeted with an RBI single before a double play plated another run and cut the Red Storm lead to 8-7. McCormick, however, got a game-ending groundout to secure the championship and earn the save.