Feb. 19, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. -
The St. John's offense plated three runs and chased the Illinois starter in the first inning, but was stymied by the bullpen as the Fighting Illini prevailed 9-4 in the fourth annual Big Ten-BIG EAST Challenge. Jeremy Baltz had a three-run home run and Matt Wessinger was 2-for-4 with two stolen bases to pace St. John's (1-2). James Lomangino (0-1) took the loss, striking out six and allowing four runs in 3.2 innings in his Division I debut. John Kravetz (1-0) earned the win for Illinois (1-2), striking out six and allowing just two hits in 6.2 innings of relief. Jordan Parr and Kelly Norris-Jones had two RBI apiece for the Illini.
Lomangino retired the first two batters he faced before a Brandon Hohl solo home run gave the Illini a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
St. John's responded immediately, however, chasing Nick Chmielewski and using the long ball to help pace a three-run frame. Anthony Iacomini drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a wild pitch before a walk to Sean O'Hare set up runners on first second. Baltz then blasted a 1-1 offering for a three-run home run to left center field to put the Red Storm on top, 3-1. Wessinger followed with a single and stole second before also nabbing third as Martin Kelly took ball four. After Kelly stole second, Kevin Grove worked a walk to load the bases and Chmielewski was lifted. Kravetz, however, induced an inning-ending double play to escape the inning.
Lomangino retired nine of the next 10 batters after the first inning home run, including a pair of strikeouts to open the fourth. Willie Argo, however, followed with a two-out walk before Parr tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run shot to left field. After Davis Hendrickson singled and Norris-Jones was plunked, David Kerian put the Illini on top, 4-3, with an RBI single and St. John's went to the bullpen. Inheriting runners on the corners, Eddie Medina induced a ground out to end the inning.
Three-straight one-out singles helped Illinois take a 5-3 lead in the fifth. Singles by Hohl and Reid Roper set up runners on the corners with one out before an Argo RBI single gave the Illini a 5-3 lead. An intentional walk loaded the bases and Medina was lifted, but lefty Jake Woodward
used a pair of strikeouts to strand all three runners and end the threat.
Illinois added an unearned run in the sixth and plated a pair of two-out runs in the seventh as Hendrickson picked up an RBI single and Norris-Jones added an RBI double to give the Illini an 8-3 advantage.
Kravetz, meanwhile, allowed a one-out Iacomini triple in the second and a two-out O'Hare double in the fourth before retiring 10-straight Red Storm batters. Kravetz was lifted in the eighth and Wessinger promptly greeted Bryan Roberts with a leadoff single and took second on an error in center field. Wessinger then moved to third on a groundout by pinch hitter Robert Case and took home on errant return throw to third to pull St. John's to within 8-4.
The Illini added a run in the ninth on an RBI groundout and St. John's was retired in order in the bottom of the ninth.
St. John's returns to action on Feb. 24 with a 6 p.m. game against Texas Tech as part of the Brooks Wallace Memorial Classic.