Congrats to the Big East Champion Seton Hall Pirates
CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Seton Hall baseball team won the BIG EAST Championship with a rousing, 4-2, victory over St. John’s on Sunday. The Pirates took home their third conference title and earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
Working on just three days rest, senior Joe DiRocco (East Hanover, N.J.) pitched six strong innings, allowing just the one run on six hits with four strikeouts to improve to 8-1 on the season. His efforts earned him the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.
Freshman Zack Granite (Staten Island, N.Y.) went 1-for-2 with two walks, a stolen base, and scored three runs to ignite the SHU offense.
DiRocco, Granite and junior Will Walsh (New Milford, N.J.) were all named to the All-Tournament Team.
For the 11th straight inning, dating back to the 12th inning over their first game against UConn, the Pirates (33-23) put the leadoff runner on base after Granite reached on a single to center in the bottom of the first. Sophomore Mike Genovese (Livingston, N.J.) pushed Granite into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and came around to score on a Sean Gusrang (Burlington, N.J.) double down the right field line to put SHU on top, 1-0.
Granite was the catalyst again in the third, drawing a leadoff walk and stealing second base. With one out, Gusrang hit a fly ball to center deep enough to advance Granite to third, and the centerfielder scored on a wild pitch to add an insurance run.
The Red Storm (35-20) strung together a rally in the fifth after back-to-back hits by Kevin Grove and Paul Karmas put runners on the corners with no outs, and DiRocco hit the next batter, Joe Witkowski, to load the bases. Jimmy Brennan hit a sac fly to cut the deficit in half, but the first team All-BIG EAST hurler induced a double play to end the threat and keep the Pirates in front.
Granite began the bottom half of the frame with another base on balls, advanced to second on a balk, and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Genovese. St. John’s elected to intentionally walk Gusrang to face Dale Anderson (Alberta, Canada), who was plunked by Kyle Hansen to load the bases. With two away, A.J. Rusbarsky (Freehold, N.J.) hit a sharp grounder to the hole to Joe Panik at short. Panik made a nice play to pick up the ball on the backhand, but his throw was off the mark, allowing two runs to score to give the Hall a 4-1 advantage.
DiRocco worked out of another bases loaded jam in the sixth after surrendering a pair of walks and a hit all coming with one out. He then struck out Grove on a called third strike, and forced a ground out to third to get out of the inning unscathed.
St. John’s brought the tying run to the plate again in the seventh, but a trio of pitchers out of the bullpen got the job done, highlighted by a George Fernandez (Union, N.J.) strikeout to end the inning.
After a double play in the eighth, the Red Storm put runners on the corners after singles by Grove and Karmas put runners on the corners. With a full-count, pinch-hitter Rowan Wick delivered an opposite field single to plate Grove. Sophomore Ryan Harvey (Manalapan, N.J.) came in and got Brennan to chase strike three in the dirt to keep the score, 4-2.
Harvey struck out the leadoff batter in the ninth, but Panik followed with a double down the leftfield line. After a fly out to Anderson in right, Jeremy Baltz walked to put the tying run on first base. A passed ball moved both runners into scoring position, but Harvey forced a groundout to second base to secure the victory.
Harvey tossed 1.1 innings to earn his seventh save of the season.
Hansen fell to 8-6 on the year after throwing five innings and giving up three earned runs on five hits, while striking out five.
Seton Hall is riding a season-long eight-game winning streak, and are winners of 13 of its last 15 contests. The Pirates previously won the BIG EAST crown in 1987 and 2001.
NCAA Regional pairings and sites will be announced on Monday, May 30, at 12:30 pm on ESPN.