Day Two Challenge recaps and notes courtesy of Bo Carter of the NCBWA…
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Evenly-balanced teams, hard hitting, speed on the basepaths, future players in the Major Leagues, wonderful weather, and some of the top collegiate competition nationally (four ranked teams and nine total receiving Top 30-35 votes in the Division I polls) make the third annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Baseball Challenge one of the top sports attractions throughout Florida and the Southeast.
After another hard-fought slate of Saturday games and with 16 contests in the 2011 books, the two power conferences are tied at 35-35 through 70 intraconference bouts. The BIG EAST roared back from a 35-32 deficit Saturday night to win the final three tests before Sunday’s Challenge finale.
Late Game Notes from Saturday:
Minnesota director of baseball operations Lee Swenson got married Saturday in a beach ceremony near St. Petersburg/Clearwater with family, team and staff in attendance…Illinois’ 12 hits today mark the fourth time in five games that Illinois has recorded double-digit hits, dating back to last season and may be 5-for-5 in double-digit games pending certification of Friday’s official Illinois-Pitt boxscore…The Nos. 5-8 hitters in the Illini lineup combined to go 8-for-14 against Cincinnati with 1 RBI and 6 runs scored. Conversely, Josh Parr and Casey McMurray, who hit in the top two spots in the order, drove in five of Illinois’ seven runs on the day while going 4-for-10…
Illinois’ pitchers held Cincinnati to four hits one day after the Bearcats had 32 in two wins over Ohio State in the Bearcats’ two most recent Challenge games at he end of 2010 and start of the ’11 season…
St. John’s now leads the Challenge in all-time wins with seven (7-1). Next is Penn State at 6-2 to lead Big Ten entries. Teams such as Louisville, Georgetown, USF, Northwestern, and Pittsburgh have not competed in all three Challenges…
Notre Dame missed St. John’s single-inning run record (12 vs. Iowa in 2010) by one in an 11-inning outburst against Purdue.
Game 9 – Illinois 7, Cincinnati 3 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Illinois slowed down red-hot Cincinnati with a 7-3 win over the Bearcats Saturday in game nine of the third annual Big East/Big Ten Conference Baseball Challenge sponsored by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission.
The Fighting Illini jumped out to a 4-1 advantage after two innings and coasted most of the rest of the way against a Cincy team, which had scored 23 runs in its last two Challenge encounters against Ohio State in 2010 and Friday.
The Big Ten entry, now 1-1 on the season and 4-4 in Challenge activity, avoided the pitfalls it suffered in a 10-run inning the evening before against Pittsburgh. Josh Parr and Casey McMurray combined for five hits at the top of the order while twins Josh and Justin Parr each stole a base in the win.
Cincinnati, which came on strongly in the latter stages of BIG EAST play in 2010, was unable to break through offensively against starter and winning pitcher John Anderson (making his first career start in his 35th appearance) of UI. Chris Pack, a transfer from Villanova, notched his first career save at either school. Soph Andrew Stenge absorbed the four-run outburst by the Illini and took the loss. Catcher Jake Saylor paced the Bearcats with a two-RBI double to account for all but one run.
Game 10 – Michigan State 5, Seton Hall 4 – Al Lang Field
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Michigan State bounced back for a 3-0 deficit to win its second game Saturday in the second round of the third annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Baseball Challenge.
Seton Hall OF Will Walsh continued his sizzling ways at the plate by doubling in the first two runs of the game in the opening inning as the Pirates grabbed the 3-0 lead. Michigan State countered later that inning with a three-spot sparked by a two-run triple by 1B Jeff Holm (who was accidentally beaned last year at this site in the Challenge vs. Northwestern).
With the score knotted at 3-3 and later at 4-4, the Spartans finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Eckerle pushed in the eventual run with a bunt single.
After Friday’s 2-1 over Notre Dame in the Challenge, the Spartans went 2-0 in the Challenge for the first time and advanced to 5-3 in three years.
Relief hurlers figured in both pitching decisions Saturday. David Garner of MSU spelled Tony Bucciferro and worked four innings of shutout baseball to win in his first appearance of 2011. Brian Gilbert of The Hall did not allow an earned run as the run-producing bunt was the result of an earlier error and fell to 0-1 in three frames of hard-luck work.
Game 11 – Penn State 3, West Virginia 2 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Penn State rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to edge pitching-rich West Virginia 3-2 Saturday in the third game of the day and No. 11 in the third annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge sponsored by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission.
The Mountaineers continued their pitching mastery with a Challenge-most 16 consecutive innings without allowing a run (nine frames vs. Iowa and the first seven against PSU).
Then the mini-floodgates opened for the Nittany Lions (2-0 in the Challenge and bidding for their first 3-0 finish in three tries) in the bottom of the eighth. Luis Montesinos, Jordan Steranka and Mario Eramo each plated runs with Eramo’s RBI becoming the game winner.
WVU had crept ahead in the first inning when SS Grant Buckner drove in his fourth run in two days, and catcher Justin McDavid singled in another tally in the fourth.
Mountaineers’ starter Harrison Musgrave had 6 2/3 innings of eight-strikeout, three-hit mound work with no runs allowed before relief men Marcus Broadwater and losing pitcher Josh McCauley allowed five hits between them and the decisive markers.
Penn State righty Justin Hill was almost as dominant with 7 2/3 innings of five-hit hurling while whiffing eight WVU batsmen. Relief ace Dave Walking faced one hitter over the minimum and was the beneficiary of the three-run rally to get his first win of the young season. WVU dropped to 1-1.
Game 12 – St. John’s 13, Michigan 6 – Al Lang Field
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Power-hitting St. John’s erupted for 17 more hits to clip Michigan by the football-like score of 13-6 Saturday in the second round of the third annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge sponsored by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission.
The Red Storm, which has struck for 31 runs on 37 hits in its first two outings in the 2011 Challenge, is nearing tournament three-game records on offense with Ohio State on the docket Sunday at the Fuller Baseball Complex.
St. John’s already holds the current marks of 35 runs and 43 hits in three tussles in the 2009 Challenge along with 33 RBI. At this rate, SJU could eclipse all three in the early innings Sunday. Coach Ed Blankmeyer’s crew also is 7-1 in three Challenge appearances with five consecutive wins here since 2010. Only Louisville has a similar record with a minimum of four contests (4-0) prior to Saturday’s tilt with Ohio State at 4 p.m. (EST) at Bright House Field.
The team firepower Saturday afternoon came from 2010 National Freshman of the Year OF Jeremy Baltz with a two-hit day and team-high three RBI. SS Joe Panik chipped in with a trio of hits while the top two hitters in the batting order – Jimmy Brennan and Matt Wessinger – collected two RBI each, They gave relief man Stephen Rivera (1-0) plenty of support for his first decision of the year.
Michigan fell to 0-2 overall and made a belated comeback attempt with three runs and five hits in the top of the ninth. CF Patrick Biondi lashed four hits and drove in a run to pace the Wolverines.
Game 13 – Minnesota 3, Connecticut 2 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Minnesota bounced back from a 13-run loss against St. John’s Friday to down No. 8 nationally (Baseball America) Connecticut in Game 13 of the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge sponsored by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission in a contest between the two preseason favorites of their respective conferences.
Coach John Anderson’s Golden Gophers, winners of the Big Ten tournament and automatic NCAA bid last spring, helped keep the venerable coach fourth all-time in wins at one university since he took over the UM program in 1981. Gopher pitchers Phil Isaksson, Billy Soule and Scott Matyas combined to strike out nine Huskies’ hitters as Soule advanced to 1-0 with the win and Matyas earned his third career save in the Challenge.
Losing pitcher Matt Barnes was equally formidable with 11 strikeouts in just six innings for a Challenge individual K’s mark. He was haunted by a throwing error that let the Golden Gophers score a third run and take a 3-1 advantage before UConn closed to within one marker on Mike Friel’s RBI single.
LJ Mazzilli, son of former Major League manager Lee Mazzilli who attended the Huskies’ Friday night contest against Purdue along with C.C. Sabathia, was 2-for-3 for UConn with a run scored.
Game 14 – Notre Dame 19, Purdue 2 – Al Lang Field
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Notre Dame established Challenge record for runs (19) and hits (25) in a game by thumping Purdue 19-2 Saturday night during the second round of play at the BIG EAST/Big Ten Conference Baseball Challenge.
It easily outdid the tight previous meeting of the teams in the 2009 Challenge when Notre Dame rallied for five runs in the top of the 10th inning to top Purdue 9-4 in extra stanzas. The Fighting Irish, now 1-1, also tied the Challenge mark for RBI in one game with St. John’s vs. Iowa in 2009.
Purdue’s Barrett Serrato opened the scoring with a RBI triple in the bottom of the second then made it 2-0 Boilermakers when he raced home on a squeeze bunt. A half-inning later, Herman Petzold cleared the bases with a three-run double to push the Fighting Irish ahead 3-2 to start an uncontested 19-0 by UND batters.
LF Eric Jagielo joined catcher Joe Hudson with four hits each behind CF Alex Robinson with a 5-for-5 evening, three runs and one RBI. It was more than enough to lift starter Cole Johnson to a 1-0 pitching mark after a six-inning stint, four strikeouts and two runs yielded.
Purdue, which fell to 1-1 after knocking off No. 8 Connecticut 10-2 Friday night, punched out eight hits with two apiece from CF Tyler Spillner and 1B Ryan Bridges.
Game 15 – Louisville 2, Ohio State 0 – Bright House Field
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Louisville posted its second shutout (out of five all-time) in the meet to down Big Ten power Ohio State 2-0 Saturday in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge Saturday in the first of two games played at Bright House Field, the spring training home of the 2009 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.
The Cardinals set a Challenge record with their fifth consecutive career win to begin the classic and equaled a 2-0 blanking of highly-touted Michigan in 2010. The 1-2-3 pitching punch of winner Justin Amlung (1-0) with 7 2/3 innings, four hits and four whiffs, Gabriel Shaw with one retirement on the one hitter he faced and saving Tony Zych (two strikeouts in the final inning) blanked the Buckeyes on six singles.
Ryan Wright belted his third double in two games and drove in one of the two runs (along with 3B Cade Stallings) to provide the key blows for the Cardinals. Buckeyes’ starter Dean Wolosiansky (0-1) for the 0-2 Buckeyes was almost as impressive with five hits allowed and just one earned tally in a well-pitched defeat.
UL’s victory also moved the BIG EAST within one win of catching up with the then 35-34 leading Big Ten in the closely-contested Challenge series.
Game 16 – Pittsburgh 3, Iowa 2 (11 innings) – Bright House Field
CLEARWATER, Fla. – It was inevitable that the third annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Baseball Challenge would provide a game with bonus stanzas, and Bright House Stadium was the Saturday night setting for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 triumph over Big Ten rival Iowa.
Pitt continued its two-game success in the Challenge debut as fireballing relievers Ray Black (now 1-0) and Casey Roche (first save) slammed the door on the Hawkeyes over the last 2 2/3 innings with one hit and a trio of strikeouts.
Iowa’s Ricky Sandquist spelled starter Nick Brown and was tagged with the loss on a night where Hawkeyes’ hurlers struck out a team-most 11 Panthers. Catcher Anthony Defabio drove in the winning run in the top of the 11th stanza while anchoring Pitt’s nine-hti attack.
The Hawkeyes, now 0-2 overall, broke a nine-inning scoring drought to open the 2011 Challenge when DH Dan Sheppard plated a run in the bottom of the first inning. That helped spur a 10-safety attack by the Hawkeyes, who also received a game-best three hits in five trips by CF Trevor Willis.
Scores of 2011 Games (Through Feb. 19)
Friday, Feb. 18
West Virginia 5, Iowa 0 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, Clearwater
Penn State 8, Seton Hall 6 – Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg
St. John’s 14, Minnesota 1 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
Cincinnati 11, Ohio State 5 – Al Lang Field
Pittsburgh 10, Illinois 6 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
Louisville 6, Michigan 3 – Al Lang Field
Michigan State 2, Notre Dame 1 – Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Dunedin
Purdue 10, Connecticut 2 – Florida Auto Exchange Stadium
Saturday, Feb. 19
Illinois 7, Cincinnati 3 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
Michigan State 5, Seton Hall 4 – Al Lang Field
Penn State 3, West Virginia 2 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
St. John’s 13, Michigan 6 – Al Lang Field
Minnesota 3, Connecticut 2 – Jack Russell Memorial Stadium
Notre Dame 19, Purdue 2 – Al Lang Field
Louisville 2, Ohio State 0 – Bright House Field
Pittsburgh 3, Iowa 2 (11 innings) – Bright House Field